Limited Second Amendment Right for Minors: the New Trend

How young is “too young” to learn about gun safety? 18 years? 15? 10? With new and improved gun technology the answer to these questions might be more shocking than once thought. A recent Chicago ordinance which imposed strict and cumbersome regulations on gun ranges was struck down, January 18, 2017. Most notably, the law banned all minors from entering gun ranges within city limits. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that the law was overly broad and inconsistent with justice. The city argued that there is no second amendment right for minors. An argument which the presiding Judge Diana Skye found less than persuasive.

Judge Skye’s ruling establishes a limited second amendment right for minors—an entirely new concept within the law. The age limit issue received a heightened scrutiny analysis, and unfortunately for the city, its best argument only raised speculative claims of harm to the public well-being. Judge Skye found instead that minors have a right to learn how to use and practice gun safety in a controlled environment (shooting range).

The city was met with further misfortune when Rosemary Krimbel, the city’s own witness, surprised the entire court by testifying that “the age restriction is overbroad because teenagers can safely be taught to shoot and youth firearm instruction is both prudent and can be conducted in a safe manner.” Krimbel is the city’s commissioner of business affairs and consumer protection, and she believes that shooting ranges are a good place to teach youngsters how to shoot a rifle.

One of the city’s strongest arguments was that new simulator technologies could be used in place of real guns to teach children how to properly use and care for firearms. Judge Skye even agreed at one point in her opinion noting

“[i]t is possible that, with simulated training, technology will obviate the need for live-range training.”

The argument however, was not enough to overcome the opposition and the law was subsequently invalidated.

Gun safety, and its never-ending waltz with the second amendment has forever been a sensitive issue. At what point is the line drawn? Or better, at what point should it be drawn? The Seventh Circuit has now established a clear line becoming the first circuit to take an affirmative stance on extending minors the constitutional right to bear arms. While allowing minors onto gun ranges has commonly varied between state localities, this marks an interesting new precedent which raises more than a few thought-provoking questions.

Whether exposing our nation’s youth to gun safety at an early age is beneficial or not, it is fair to assume that parental concern on the issue is well founded. In 2008, the majority of handgun victims were aged between 16 and 21, and whether (a) stricter enforcement or (b) further education is the better solution, the question is more philosophical than quantifiable. In any case Chicago minors now have the United States Constitution (in a limited role) behind them, in a city which has the highest rate of gun related crime in the world.