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Illinois law on firearm licensing for person under age of 21 doesn’t violate Second Amendment

Tempest Horsley v. Jessica Trame, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Case No. 14-2846, 12/14/15

Illinois law requires a person over the age of 18 but under the age of 21 to get a parent’s or guardian signature on an application for a firearm owner’s identification (FOID) card, which is generally necessary to lawfully possess or acquire a firearm. The Seventh Circuit rejects the challenge an 18-year-old brought against the law under the Second Amendment and District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).

Under Illinois law, if a person between the ages of 18 and 21 can’t get a parent’s or guardian’s signature, he or she may ask the Director of State Police to issue a FOID card anyway. The Director can do so if the applicant establishes he or she hasn’t been convicted of certain crimes, he or she isn’t likely to be dangerous, and granting the card isn’t contrary to the public interest or federal law. This statutory scheme doesn’t violate the Second Amendment under the means-ends scrutiny established by United States v. Ezell, 651 F.3d 684 (7th Cir. 2011):

In this analysis we “evaluate the regulatory means the government has chosen and the public-benefits end it seeks to achieve.” Id. The level of scrutiny we apply “will depend on how close the law comes to the core of the Second Amendment right and the severity of the law’s burden on the right.” Id. “[L]aws restricting activity lying closer to the margins of the Second Amendment right, laws that merely regulate rather than restrict, and modest burdens on the right may be more easily justified.” Id. at 708.

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Significantly, although Horsley’s arguments treat the challenged statute as a categorical ban on firearm possession, the FOID Card Act does not in fact ban persons under 21 from having firearms without parent or guardian consent…. Having a parent or guardian signature may speed up the process, but it is not a prerequisite to obtaining a FOID card in Illinois. Rather, a person for whom a parent’s signature is not available can appeal to the Director of the Illinois State Police. Upon a sufficient showing regarding the applicant’s criminal record, lack of dangerousness, and the public interest, the Director may issue a card. 430 ILCS 65/10(c). And if the Director were to deny the application, the denial is subject to judicial review. 430 ILCS 65/11(a).

So the lack of a parent signature does not bar Horsley from possessing a firearm, despite her arguments to the contrary…. Nor does it impose a bar on gun possession on an 18-to-20- year-old whose parents have passed away or are disqualified from owning guns. The absence of a blanket ban makes the Illinois FOID Card Act much different from the blanket ban on firearm possession present in Heller. ….

(Slip op. at 10-11). In addition, the statute’s means are substantially related to achieving the state’s interests in public protection given the statistics about the commission of violent and gun crimes by those under the age of 21 and scholarly research on the brain development of teens and young adults. (Slip op. at 12-14).

The parties also argue at length about whether the Second Amendment even protects the right of a person between the ages of 18 and 21 to possess a gun, but the court doesn’t decide the issue, and assumes an 18-year-old is covered. (Slip op. at 7-9).

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