Young adults in the Volunteer State will soon enjoy the same gun-carry rights as their peers over the age of 21.
Attorneys for the state of Tennessee entered into an Agreed Order in federal court on Monday with gun rights advocates who sued the state over its prohibition on adults under the age of 21 carrying firearms. The order stipulates that the state’s previous carry ban for young adults was unconstitutional and will no longer be enforced. It also forces the state to pay nearly $50,000 in legal fees.
“The Challenged Scheme regulating the possession and carrying of handguns that restricts individuals aged 18 years old to 20 years old from carrying handguns or obtaining permits to carry handguns on the basis of age alone violates the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution,” the order reads. “Defendant and his officers, agents, employees, and all others acting under his direction and control, are permanently enjoined from implementing or enforcing the Challenged Scheme to prevent individuals aged 18 years old to 20 years old from carrying handguns or obtaining permits to carry handguns on the basis of age alone.”
The order adds to the growing list of legal decisions finding special restrictions on the gun rights of otherwise law-abiding adults under 21 to violate the Second Amendment. It arrives a little over a month after the Government of Texas decided to withdraw its appeal of a federal ruling striking down a similar gun-carry ban for young adults. It also follows multiple federal appeals court decisions ruling against bans on the sale of various types of firearms to the same group.
The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in 2022’s New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, which acknowledged a constitutional right to carry a gun in public, is expected to accelerate that trend.
Prior to Monday’s court agreement, 18-to-20-year-old Tennesseans were categorically prohibited from obtaining a permit to carry a concealed firearm. They were also prohibited from carrying without a permit despite the state passing a permitless carry law in April of 2021. The Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) sued the state over its exclusion of young adults that same month, arguing that the law as written left no options for legal adults to carry a firearm for self-defense.
The group celebrated Monday’s settlement order.
“FPC Law is thrilled with today’s settlement,” Bill Sack, FPC’s Director of Legal Operations, told The Reload. “Our position all along has been that peaceable adults of all ages have human rights – even those aged 18 to 20. To restore the rights to an entire community of folks in Tennessee is a great win for us.”
The order takes effect immediately. It gives the Tennessee Department of Safety, and Homeland Security, the state agency tasked with administering the state’s gun carry laws, 90 days to begin processing handgun carry applications for 18-to-20-year-olds.
Representatives with the department did not respond to a request for comment.
UPDATE 1-23-2023 6:39 PM EASTERN: This piece has been updated to include comment from the Firearms Policy Coalition.