SALT LAKE CITY — Utah has joined 22 states in a court brief supporting the National Rifle Association's challenge to a law banning federally licensed dealers from selling handguns to people under age 21.
The NRA seeks to end the federal prohibition of young adults to buy handguns from federally licensed dealers. The case is before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Utah Attorney General John Swallow said he signed on to the brief because there is a collision between federal and state law on the issue. The Supreme Court needs to decide whether it is a right under the Second Amendment for that age group buy a handgun, he said.
"It's really a federalism issue. We feel like we should be able to enforce state policy where it comes to the safety of our citizens," Swallow said.
Under state law, an 18- to 20-year-old can buy a handgun in a private transaction.
Swallow said he also believes the state law is "right, and the federal law is too restrictive and violates the Constitution."
Government lawyers convinced a federal judge in Lubbock, Texas, that the ban didn’t violate the Second Amendment or the Fifth Amendment guarantee of equal protection. In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans agreed in a 41-page opinion.
"Congress designed its scheme to solve a particular problem: violent crime associated with the trafficking of handguns from federal firearms licensees to young adults," U.S. Circuit Judge Edward C. Prado wrote on behalf of the three- member appeals panel.
The amicus brief, filed by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, notes that most states allow 18-to 20-year-old adults to buy guns, and "yet Congress has sought to withdraw this liberty from the same class of people."
"Young adults, many of whom have fought and sacrificed life and limb for their country, should not be prohibited from fully exercising their fundamental right to keep and bear arms,” Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement.
Other states signing on to the brief are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin.