Colorado can’t enforce age restriction on gun ownership during lawsuit appeal
DENVER (CN) — The 10th Circuit on Tuesday declined Colorado Governor Jared Polis' request to stay an injunction issued by a lower court barring the state from raising the legal gun-purchasing age to 21 years old.
“The governor has failed to show his entitlement to a stay under these factors. Accordingly, we deny his emergency motion for a stay pending appeal,” wrote Obama-appointed Circuit Judges Carolyn McHugh and Nancy Moritz in a two-page order.
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners sued Polis in federal court in April hours after Polis, a Democrat, signed a bill raising the lawful age to buy a gun in Colorado from 18 to 21. (A second lawsuit between Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and Polis challenges the state’s newly imposed three-day waiting period between purchasing and obtaining a firearm.)
Tate Mosgrove and Adrian Pineda, the named plaintiffs, say they want to purchase guns for home defense but are barred from doing so by the age restriction.
U.S. District of Colorado Chief Judge Philip Brimmer granted preliminary injunction to Rocky Mountain Gun Owners on Aug. 7, barring enforcement of the 21-and-up age restriction against Mosgrove and Pineda.
"Based on Mr. Mosgrove’s and Mr. Pineda’s representations that the purchase is at least partly for self-defense, the court finds the individual plaintiffs’ proposed course of conduct is ‘arguably affected with a constitutional interest,’ under the Second Amendment,” Brimmer wrote in a 44-page opinion. George W. Bush appointed Brimmer.
Rocky Mountain’s complaint relies on the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which cautioned the government against restricting the right to bear arms, and recommends looking to history for guidance.
“The court finds that the governor has not shown a ‘historical tradition of firearm regulation,’ of 18-to-20 year olds during the founding era,” Brimmer explained. “Thus, the court finds that the individual plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on the merits on the question of whether the Second Amendment applies to 18-to-20 year olds."
As the organization advocates for “no compromise” on gun control, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners executive director Taylor Rhodes applauded the decision.
“I believe that it's unconstitutional to deny any American citizen of any of our rights, and legal voting-age military-aged adults should be able to have the exact same rights as those only a couple of years older than them,” Rhodes told Courthouse News.
The Gun Violence Archive has tracked 18,531 violence deaths since the start of the year, including 15,906 suicides and 476 mass shootings. Rhodes however said banning guns isn’t the answer.
“Democrats have come pretty much every two years with more and more gun control that they're trying to ram down our throats with a promise that this is going to make us safer,” Rhodes said. “Our violent crime rates are through the roof. The gun control laws that they have passed are not doing anything but harming law-abiding citizens from being able to defend themselves."
Barry Arrington, who practices out of Denver, represents the organization.
Advocates for gun control called the decision a setback.
“It is disappointing that the 10th Circuit denied lifting the injunction on the law establishing a minimum age of 21 for the purchase of firearms, at a time when gun violence is the leading cause of death for children and youth,” Eileen McCarron, president of Colorado Ceasefire, told Courthouse News via email. “The unwise and contorted confines of the Bruen decision will have negative impacts on public safety for years to come.”
While the court requires only two judges to review a motion to stay, the formal 10th Circuit appeal will be reviewed by a three-judge panel.
Federal law prohibits firearms dealers from selling handguns to people under 21 and rifles or shotguns to people under 18. Several other states before Colorado raised the legal age to 21, including California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Governor Polis’ office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.