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Federal and State Gun Control Proponents Cite Rahimi in Support of Age and Location Limits and 3D-Printing Bans

An assortment of semiautomatic rifles on display for sale at R Guns in Carpentersville, Illinois, on April 29, 2023. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
June 27, 2024

The U.S. Department of Justice has cited the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Zackey Rahimi to argue in favor of continuing to block access to handguns for people between 18 and 21 years old.

The gun rights groups, including the Firearms Policy Coalition, the Second Amendment Foundation, the Louisiana Shooting Association and two individuals under the age of 21 seeking to purchase handguns, have challenged the federal prohibitions on access to handguns for adults under the age of 21. The plaintiffs began challenging these federal limits in 2020, and the case is now before the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Arguing in favor of continuing the age limit for handgun purchases, Justice Department attorney Steven Hazel pointed to the Supreme Court’s 8-1 decision in Rahimi finding that a court can strip someone of their firearms rights with a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO), even if that individual isn’t first found guilty of a crime. The majority opinion states that “the Court does not suggest that the Second Amendment prohibits the enactment of laws banning the possession of guns by categories of persons thought by a legislature to present a special danger of misuse.”

Referencing the Rahimi decision, Hazel wrote in a June 26 letter that “legislatures have long recognized that access to arms by underage individuals poses a special danger to public safety and have adopted various measures to mitigate that risk.”

Hazel’s arguments provide some indication of how gun control proponents may interpret the court’s logic in the Rahimi case to other measures to restrict firearms access.

Attorneys for the State of New Jersey have also pointed to the Rahimi decision in two cases currently before the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his lone dissent in Rahimi that the court’s majority had not found a sufficiently similar historical analog matching the modern federal law barring access to firearms for subjects of a DVRO, and instead used “piecemeal” citations of elements of pre-founding surety and affrays laws that did not clearly prohibit possession of firearms by people deemed dangerous who had not been criminally convicted. Still, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority that the historical analogs he cited to justify this continued federal ban on access to firearms for those under a DVRO “need not be a “dead ringer’ or a ‘historical twin.’”

New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin pointed to Roberts’ “dead ringer” comments to insist there are sufficient historical analogs to support the state’s laws barring individuals from carrying firearms in so-called “sensitive places.” New Jersey adopted these “sensitive-places” provisions into law after the Supreme Court ruled in 2022 in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen that states generally have to permit the public carry of firearms and must set objective standards for carrying a firearm in public. New Jersey and several other states having to grant new permits for public carry began passing laws to limit public carry by identifying specific public settings where it would not be allowed.

In a brief to the appeals court on Wednesday, June 26, Platkin’s office wrote that “the challengers here demand historical analogs identical to the modern regulations” but that the analogs New Jersey has found “more-than-adequately encapsulate” its new “sensitive-places” provisions.

In a separate case challenging the state’s laws to limit the 3D-printing of firearms, Platkin’s office cited another portion of Roberts’ majority opinion that the Second Amendment is “trapped in amber” and does not only protect access to those firearms “in existence at the founding” of the United States. Platkin’s office argued in another June 26 letter to the court that the Second Amendment should also permit “more than just those regulations identical to ones that could be found in 1791.”

Platkin’s office also argued that limiting access to the coding software to print a firearm is justifiable to ensure individuals who threaten the safety of others—including those subject to DVROs who haven’t actually been criminally convicted—do not circumvent these restrictions. New Jersey’s laws prohibit any individuals in the state from 3D-printing firearms and distributing instructions to 3D-print firearms; not just individuals with criminal convictions or DVROs on their record.

This article was originally published by FreeBase News and is reprinted with permission.