18-to-20-year-olds in Minnesota may soon be able to exercise the same right to carry a handgun as their peers.
U.S. District Judge Katherine Menendez, a Biden appointee, ruled on Friday that a Minnesota law requiring an applicant for a concealed carry permit to be at least 21 years of age is unconstitutional. She noted that the state government failed to demonstrate a historical tradition of “relevantly similar regulations” singling out adults under 21 from carrying firearms for self-defense.
“Based on a careful review of the record, the Court finds that Defendants have failed to identify analogous regulations that show a historical tradition in America of depriving 18–20-year-olds the right to publicly carry a handgun for self-defense,” Menendez wrote in her Worth v. Harrington opinion. “As a result, the age requirement prohibiting persons between the ages of 18 and 20 from obtaining such a permit to carry violates the Second Amendment.”
Barring an appeal by the state, the ruling will immediately allow 18-to-20-year-olds obtain carry permits provided they can meet the state’s other eligibility requirements. Judge Menendez did not issue a stay on her decision to allow the state time to consider its options. The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.
Judge Menedez’s decision is the latest to underscore the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen on gun-carry rights for younger adults. Since the arrival of that decision last June—which found the Second Amendment protects the right to carry a firearm in public—no less than three federal courts have now issued rulings striking down restrictions on gun carry permitting for adults under the age of 21.
Menendez expressed reservations about the Bruen test in her opinion, noting that she was forced to dismiss “interests in public safety” put forward by the state government and several gun-control advocates who filed briefs in the case. Nonetheless, she said the “relative dearth of firearms regulation” at the time of the American founding left her no choice but to strike the law down under the test.
“Bruen makes clear that today’s policy considerations play no role in an analytical framework that begins and ends more than two hundred years ago,” she wrote.
Minnesota’s prohibition stemmed from a 2003 law that overhauled the state’s concealed-carry-permitting regime. The law moved the state to a “shall-issue” system, whereby adults who can meet the state’s requirements must be issued a valid permit, but it also increased the state’s age minimum from 18 to 21. A coalition of gun-rights groups, including the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), and Firearms Policy Coalition, challenged that provision in 2021. Those groups cheered Friday’s decision and what they saw as Judge Menendez’s faithful application of the Bruen test.
“Judge Menendez’s ruling is a huge victory for young adults and their right to keep and bear arms,” Alan Gottlieb, SAF’s founder, said in a statement. “Furthermore, her decision underscores the importance of last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the Bruen case, which rightfully did away with the so-called ‘balancing test’ that invariably weighed in favor of government interests over individual rights. Judge Menendez has firmly established that young adults are entitled to all the rights protected by the Constitution.”
Still, gun rights for adults aged 18-to-20 have come under increased scrutiny elsewhere in recent months. The Colorado General Assembly passed a bill prohibiting the sale of firearms to adults in that age group on Monday. Additionally, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Florida’s similar ban last month in NRA v. Bondi based on a smattering of Reconstruction-era gun laws.
Menendez cited that ruling in her analysis of Minnesota’s gun-carry ban but ultimately determined that its reasoning did not apply in her case.
“In this Court’s view, Bondi declined to follow rather clear signs that the Supreme Court favors 1791 as the date for determining the historical snapshot of ‘the people’ whose understanding of the Second Amendment matters,” she wrote. “Even if Bondi is correct, analyses based on 1791 and on 1868 yield the same results in this case.”
Last Friday’s decision arrives as the Democrat-controlled Minnesota legislature is considering several new gun-control bills. The gun-rights advocates behind Worth said lawmakers considering those bills should take heed of its outcome.
“This decision should serve as a warning to anti-gun politicians in Minnesota that the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus and its allies will not hesitate to take legal actions against unconstitutional infringements on the Second Amendment rights of Minnesotans,” Rob Doar, the group’s Senior Vice President, said in a statement.