Judge strikes down Minnesota's minimum age of 21 to carry guns

In a 50-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Katherine Menendez ordered Minnesota to stop enforcing its ban on 18- to 20-year-olds from getting a permit to carry.

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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge on Friday, March 31, struck down Minnesota’s minimum age of 21 to get a permit to carry handguns in public.

In a 50-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Katherine Menendez ordered Minnesota to stop enforcing the ban on 18- to 20-year-olds getting a permit to carry. She sided with gun rights groups who argued the minimum age violated the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to bear arms.

Menendez wrote that a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision requires regulations on guns to be weighed on whether they are consistent with the nation’s “historical tradition” of regulation, rather than public safety concerns.

“The Supreme Court’s recent decision … compels the conclusion that Minnesota’s permitting age restriction is unconstitutional,” wrote Menendez, who expressed reservations about the required historic analysis. “Judges are not historians. The process of consulting historical sources to divine the intent of those responsible for ratifying constitutional amendments is fraught with potential for error and confirmation bias.”

Gun rights groups and three Minnesotans between the ages of 18 and 20 who want to obtain carry permits brought a lawsuit challenging Minnesota’s minimum permit-to-carry age in 2021.


Plaintiff Kristin Worth of Mille Lacs County said she wanted to carry a handgun for self-defense over concerns about crime and fears about walking alone to her car after closing down the grocery store she worked at, according to the complaint.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety, former Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, and several sheriff's departments were named as defendants in the lawsuit. Public Safety Department spokesperson Howie Padilla said the department is aware of the ruling and weighing what to do next. That could include an appeal of Menendez's ruling. 

The Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, one of the groups that brought the lawsuit, applauded the decision, calling it a victory for constitutional rights. The ruling comes as Democratic Minnesota lawmakers and Gov. Tim Walz push for universal background checks and “red flag” laws, which would allow temporary orders to take a person's guns away if the person is deemed a danger to themselves or others.

“This decision should serve as a warning to anti-gun politicians in Minnesota that the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus and its allies will not hesitate to take legal actions against unconstitutional infringements on the Second Amendment rights of Minnesotans,” said Rob Doar, a lobbyist with the group.

National groups including the Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition were part of the effort to challenge the age restriction. Gun control groups including the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Everytown for Gun Safety filed briefs in the case on the side of the law.

Minnesota enacted its permit-to-carry law in 2003. Applicants must take an approved firearms training course and apply at their local sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office then investigates the applicant’s background before deciding whether to issue a permit.

Minnesota’s permit-to-carry law is not a concealed-carry law per se. It allows for the concealed and open carrying of firearms. Other states, such as Wisconsin and North Dakota, allow for open carrying of firearms under certain circumstances without a permit.

Follow Alex Derosier on Twitter @xanderosier or email .


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Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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