Minnesota's 21-year age minimum for handgun carry permits struck down

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday struck down a Minnesota law requiring a person to be at least 21 before obtaining a permit to carry a handgun in public, finding it violated the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The order by U.S. District Judge Katherine Menendez in St. Paul is the latest in a series of legal defeats for state gun control measures following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year expanding gun rights nationwide.

The state's 21-year age minimum, enacted as part of a 2003 gun control law, had been challenged in a 2021 lawsuit by three gun rights groups - Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, Firearms Policy Coalition and Second Amendment Foundation - and three individuals.

"This is a resounding victory for 18- to 20-year-old adults who wish to exercise their Constitutional right to bear arms," Bryan Strawser, chair of Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, said in a statement.

The office of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, a Democrat, and the state's Department of Public Safety, which is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The plaintiffs argued in their lawsuit that the age minimum violated the Second Amendment because 18- to 20-year-olds were permitted to possess guns at the time of the United States' founding.

Their case was bolstered last June when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the first time, in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense. The court also found that any limits on gun rights must be in line with the nation's historical tradition of gun regulation.

Menendez wrote that she had "reservations" about the historical analysis demanded by the Supreme Court, noting that "judges are not historians."

Nonetheless, she concluded that there were no historical laws comparable to Minnesota's, and that Bruen required her to strike the law down.

She noted that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a 21-year age minimum for handgun purchases in Florida, based on 19th-century laws, but said those laws only concerned gun sales, not the right to carry guns.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Bill Berkrot)