Attorney General James Fights to Defend States’ Abilities to Protect Residents From Gun Violence

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NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James, as part of a coalition of 20 attorneys general from around the nation, today took action to defend a Florida law that generally prohibits the sale of firearms to people under the age of 21. In an amicus brief filed in National Rifle Association v. Commissioner, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the coalition argues that states have the right to enact reasonable, age-based firearm regulations that protect public safety and reduce the prevalence of gun violence.

“Unfortunately, guns do not stop working when they cross a state’s border, which is why whether someone lives in New York, Florida, or any other state in the nation, they are not immune from gun violence,” said Attorney General James. “We’ve needed the federal government to act, but, time and again, Congress has refused to take the necessary steps to protect Americans from gun violence. One-by-one, states are stepping forward to protect their residents from senseless gun deaths and to stop gun violence from breaching their borders. States have the right to take the necessary steps to ensure that their schools, their workplaces, and their houses of worship are not turned into killing fields, and to prevent another massacre like we saw in Parkland, in Las Vegas, in Newtown, in Pittsburgh, in El Paso, and in so many other devastated communities.”

After a deadly shooting took place at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018, the state of Florida passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which generally prohibits the purchase of firearms by individuals under the age of 21. A lawsuit was then filed in which the plaintiffs claimed that the law infringes upon the Second Amendment rights of young people. A lower court in this case rejected that argument, holding that laws regulating the sale of firearms to young people are longstanding and constitutional. The plaintiffs then appealed the case to the circuit court.

In today’s brief — filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit — the coalition argues that the Second Amendment gives states the ability to enact sensible regulations designed to protect the public, including age-based restrictions that limit the ability of people younger than 21 to purchase firearms. Although regulations differ based on each state’s needs, virtually every state in the nation, as well as the District of Columbia, have imposed some age-based restrictions on the sale or use of firearms, and at least 19 states and the District of Columbia have enacted a minimum age requirement of 21 for the sale or possession of certain categories of firearms. Similarly, courts across the country have consistently upheld age-based regulations, noting that the goal of these regulations is to deter crime and promote public safety.

In the past, Attorney General James has repeatedly fought to ensure states have the right to protect residents from gun violence. Last month, Attorney General James and a coalition of attorneys general filed an amicus brief in the case Lara v. Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, supporting a Pennsylvania law that generally prohibits the issuance of concealed-carry permits to people under the age of 21.


Also, last month, Attorney General James and coalition of attorneys general filed an amicus brief in support of the federal government in Hirschfeld v. Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco, and Explosives, where the plaintiffs challenged federal statutes and regulations that bar 18-to-20-year-olds from purchasing handguns from federally licensed dealers.

In March 2021, Attorney General James and a coalition of attorneys general filed an amicus brief in support of a Washington state initiative regulating the sale of semiautomatic assault rifles in the case Mitchell v. Atkins, where the coalition argued that states can pass regulations to ensure that only individuals who are likely to use firearms responsibly in their states are able to access them.

In January 2021, Attorney General James and a coalition of attorneys general filed an amicus brief in Jones v. Becerra, arguing in defense of two amendments to California’s penal code that restricted the sale of long guns and semi-automatic centerfire rifles by federally-licensed firearm dealers to individuals under the age of 21.

In June 2020, Attorney General James and a coalition of attorneys general filed an amicus brief in support of the state of California in Rhode v. Becerra, defending a California law that requires gun dealers to conduct background checks prior to all ammunition sales, and that also requires all ammunition sales to occur face-to-face, among other requirements.

Joining Attorneys General James in filing today’s brief are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.