A federal judge yesterday blocked a Colorado gun law that bans adults under the age of 21 from purchasing firearms, citing the Supreme Court’s decision in New York Rifle and Pistol Association, Inc., v. Bruen.
Senate Bill 23-169 was signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis, D, and was scheduled to go into effect on the same day the judge handed down the injunction. The prohibition bans the sale of any gun to a person under 21, whether that be from a licensed firearm dealer or a private citizen. The ban makes it a class 1 misdemeanor to sell a gun to someone under 21 which is punishable by a maximum of 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. A person under 21 who purchases a firearm, including a hunting rifle or shotgun, can be convicted of a class 2 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The law matches existing federal law in that it bans handgun sales to anyone under 21, however it also bans “long gun” sales.
Proponents of the law claim that it will reduce gun violence. “This isn’t trying to infringe on anybody’s rights … What it comes down to is saving lives, we know that youth suicide has increased, we know domestic violence has increased,” House Majority Leader Monica Duran, D, stated. “The easier it is to access something, the more likelihood that it can be used in a way that could be detrimental to not just our youth but our community.”
Duran also claims that the prohibition will decrease suicides. “When we’re talking about suicides, we’re talking about those young folks between the age of 18 and 21. But bringing them to the table to hear these stories and having these tough conversations is really where we realized that we really needed to do something,” she argued.
However, Paul Paradis, owner of Paradise Sales, a gun store in Colorado, said the law actually harms young people by putting them at increased risk of danger, especially those who hunt or fish, farm or ranch livestock, or enjoy outdoor activities and are more likely to come into contact with Colorado’s many natural predators, including bears, coyotes, wolves, and mountain lions. He explained that young people need to be able to use firearms not just for self-defense against criminals “but for protection when you’re camping or protecting your farm or ranch, and I think they’re really hurting a lot of different people.”
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), along with two named individual plaintiffs, immediately challenged the law, stating that it was unconstitutional.
Phillip Brimmer, chief judge for the U.S. District of Colorado, agreed, blocking Colorado from enacting the law during the time the suit works its way through the court system. “The Court finds that the Individual Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on the merits on the question of whether the Second Amendment applies to 18-to-20 year olds,” Brimmer wrote in his 44-age order, adding that the state failed to show evidence under the originalist standard set by Bruen that its ban was “consistent with the right to bear arms.”
Taylor Rhodes, executive director of RMGO, hailed the ruling, saying in a statement:
“Since the day this legislation was introduced, we knew it was unconstitutional….at the unveiling of this proposal, RMGO warned the bill sponsors this would quickly be struck down by a federal judge. Today, our crystal ball became a reality.”
Here’s the issue with this law: Americans either are adult citizens with their full array of liberties or they are not. The 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18 because Americans believed it was immoral that 18-year-olds could be drafted to fight wars that politicians demanded they fight in when they had no ability to vote for the politicians who made those decisions.
The same is true in this case. If an 18-year-old can fight for their country and vote, they should be able to legally purchase and own a firearm. A similar law in Texas was blocked by U.S. District Court Judge Mark Pittman who followed the Supreme Court’s test laid out in Bruen, which demands that judges rule in accordance with the historical tradition of the Second Amendment.
“To start, the Second Amendment does not mention any sort of age restriction. This absence is notable—when the Framers meant to impose age restrictions, they did so expressly.”
He later wrote,
“It would be illogical to enumerate a constitutional right to keep and bear arms to maintain an armed militia if that right did not protect those individuals from whom a militia would be drawn.”
The right to keep and bear arms is not contingent on one’s turning 21 years old — neither is one’s need to defend themselves. An 18-year-old who closes the convenience store he or she works at, the 19-year-old who lives alone in an apartment, or the 20-year-old hiking and camping in the Rocky Mountains not only has the same need to have access to a firearm but the same right as someone who has turned 21. It is strange that the left seeks to lower the minimum age for voting, allow minors to consent to having abortions and sex reassignment procedures, or be emancipated from parents who won’t support their gender identity but doesn’t think adults under 21 should be able to exercise their enumerated constitutional rights.
If an 18-year-old is too young to purchase a firearm, then they are too young to consent to life-altering medical procedures, vote, or be drafted in the military. Our country must decide at what point a person is an adult, which would be the point at which the government can no longer put conditions on their constitutional rights to make life decisions and participate in the political process.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.