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AG Nessel Files Amicus Brief In Support Of Federal Firearm Regulations

LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel today joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief supporting federal laws restricting the commercial sale of handguns to persons under the age of 21. In the brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, the coalition argues that such restrictions protect residents from the harmful effects of gun violence, as well as promote the safe use of firearms.

The coalition filed the brief in Hirschfeld v. Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco, and Explosives, a lawsuit challenging federal statutes and regulations that bar 18-to-20-year-olds from purchasing handguns from federally licensed dealers. The plaintiffs argue that such restrictions violate the Second Amendment, and a three-judge panel agreed, holding that the federal laws are unconstitutional. The federal government is now asking the full court to rehear the case.

"Preventing people under the age of 21 from legally obtaining firearms is common sense regulation," Nessel said. "If the legal age for drinking is 21, so should it be for possessing weapons - plain and simple."

In its brief, the coalition explains that the decision is the first to strike down an age-based restriction on the sale or access to firearms, breaking with the decisions of multiple other federal courts. The coalition argues that age-based restrictions on the sale of firearms are presumptively lawful regulatory measures and that such restrictions are reasonably tailored to the governmental interest in public safety.

More specifically, the coalition argues that the court should rehear the case because: 

  • The decision could raise meritless questions about the constitutionality of state laws nationwide that protect public safety by limiting young people from accessing firearms. States have long exercised their governmental prerogative to implement measures that regulate the sale and use of firearms for individuals under the age of 21.  Nearly every state, as well as the District of Columbia, has determined that imposing age-based restrictions on the sale or use of firearms is necessary to promote public safety and curb gun violence within its borders. The coalition argues that the panel decision will raise needless questions about the constitutionality of these laws.
  • The decision endangers public safety by eliminating an important safeguard against the scourge of gun violence. The coalition argues that the federal restrictions at issue in this case serve an important public safety purpose, and if the decision remains in place, it will remove a common sense tool to protect against increased gun violence. 

The brief can be found on the Department's website.

Joining Attorney General Nessel in the brief are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.