DALLAS – A federal judge has struck down one of Texas' few remaining firearm restrictions, finding a law that barred adults under the age of 21 from carrying a handgun was unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman in Fort Worth on Thursday ruled that the state law prohibiting most 18- to 20-year-olds from carrying a handgun outside the home violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms and cannot be enforced. He stayed the ruling from taking effect for 30 days.
The decision came in a case brought last year by a gun rights advocacy group and a man and woman who argued they should be able to carry handguns for protection despite being under 21. They sued five months after Texas removed one of its last major gun restrictions, allowing people over 21 to carry handguns without a license, background check or training.
Pittman, an appointee of President Donald Trump, ruled in favor of the pair and the Firearms Policy Coalition Inc. based on “the Second Amendment’s text, as informed by Founding-Era history and tradition."
The decision follows a major expansion of gun rights by the U.S. Supreme Court. After a series of mass shootings, the high court ruled in June that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense.
Cody Wisniewski, a lawyer with the Firearms Policy Coalition, said Pittman's decision “is a significant victory for the rights of young adults in Texas and demonstrates for the rest of the nation that similar bans cannot withstand constitutional challenges grounded in history.”
A spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican whose office defended the law in court, did not immediately responded to questions, including whether the state will appeal.
The ruling comes amid renewed calls in Texas for stricter gun laws following the May massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, where an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two teachers with a legally purchased AR-15 style rifle.
Although Texas had kept age restrictions on handgun sales, the age limit to purchase long rifles in the state is 18. Many Uvalde families have joined Democrats and gun control advocates in calling on lawmakers to raise the age to purchase rifles to 21.
Uvalde parents are also expected to call for stricter gun measures at a rally Saturday at the Texas Capitol. Neither Republican Gov. Greg Abbott nor the GOP’s overwhelming majority in the state Legislature have signaled support for new gun measures since Uvalde.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa decried the new court ruling Friday and urged Abbott to convene a special legislative session to pass “meaningful, widely-supported gun safety laws.”
Associated Press reporter Paul J. Weber in Austin contributed to this report.