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Court Rules Pennsylvania Young Adults Can Carry Weapons During State of Emergency

Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police asserted that the Second Amendment did not apply to 18- to 20-year-olds

Court Rules Pennsylvania Young Adults Can Carry Weapons During State of Emergency

Pennsylvania cannot prohibit young adults from openly carrying a firearm after a state of emergency has been declared according to a new ruling from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Following a 2-1 vote, the panel of judges ruled that the right to keep and bear arms extended to adults ages 18 through 21.

Pennsylvania used a combination of three state statutes, §§ 6106, 6107, and 6109, to prohibit young adults from carrying firearms outside of their homes during a state of emergency. The state required individuals to have a license to carry a concealed firearm – even during a state of emergency – but would only issue concealed carry permits to adults over the age of 21. The state also prohibits anyone without a license from openly carrying on a public street or on public property when an emergency declaration is in effect. 

Two Second Amendment advocacy groups – the Firearms Policy Coalition and the Second Amendment Foundation – challenged the Pennsylvania state laws on behalf of Madison Lara, Sophia Knepley, and Logan Miller – all of whom were between 18 and 21 at the time and who wanted to carry weapons for lawful purposes such as self-defense. Their October 2020 lawsuit was filed against the Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. The state had been in what the plaintiffs called an “uninterrupted state of emergency for nearly three years” because of emergency orders issued by the governor because of Hurricane Ida, the opioid addiction crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“In response, the Commissioner contends that the Appellants are not among ‘the people’ to whom the Second Amendment applies, and that the Nation’s history and tradition of firearm regulation support the statutory status quo,” wrote Judge Kent A. Jordan in the majority of the opinion. “We disagree.” 

“The words ‘the people’ in the Second Amendment presumptively encompass all adult Americans, including 18- to-20-year-olds, and we are aware of no founding-era law that supports disarming people in that age group,” Jordan continued. “Accordingly, we will reverse and remand.”

The Philadelphia-based court heard oral arguments in the case on June 28.

Since the lawsuit was filed, Pennsylvania’s legislature has amended its constitution to limit the governor’s ability to issue state of emergency declarations. The declaration now must expire after 21 days unless the General Assembly votes in favor of an extension.

Cody J. Wisniewski, the FPC Action Foundation’s Vice President and General Counsel, said the advocacy organization “[applauds] the Third Circuit’s decision in this case confirming that 18-to-20-year-old adults have the same right to armed self-defense as any other adults.”

“If it wasn’t for 18-to-20-year-old adults being empowered to exercise their right to defend themselves, their loved ones, and their communities, our Nation wouldn’t exist–it would be a deep perversion of the Constitution to prevent them the same right today,” he said in a press release on Jan. 18.

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