National Shooting Sports Foundation: Raising Age Requirement for Rifle Purchases is Ineffective and Unconstitutional

Young man with an AR-15 (courtesy

The National Shooting Sports Foundation Senior Vice President Larry Keane writes:

The tragedy of Parkland, Florida, has everyone searching for answers. Rightfully so. Some proposals have merit and are worth consideration. Others are non-starters, beginning with any proposal that would arbitrarily strip law-abiding young American adults from their ability to exercise their rights. I’m referring to proposals that would raise the age requirement to purchase an AR-15, or Modern Sporting Rifle, to 21 from 18 . . .

These aren’t just ideas being floated for a national conversation. There is a raft of legislation being introduced both in Congress and in state capitals that would deny adults of their rights. NSSF opposes these measures and it’s important for all Americans to know why the firearms industry’s trade association is standing for their right to protect themselves and their families.

Constitutional Right

Our rights are inherent, endowed by our Creator. They aren’t granted by the government, but carefully safeguarded by our founding fathers. Our right to practice our religion. Our right to a free speech. Our right to a free press and our individual right to keep and bear arms. This was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2008 Heller v. District of Columbia decision.

In writing the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia was specific not only in affirming the Second Amendment as an individual right, but specifically addressing possession of rifles such as the AR-15.

Those rights apply to all American adults. When a man or woman turns 18, that person is an adult fully-vested in all their constitutional rights. They have the complete right to speak and are assured protection against illegal search and seizure. They have the right to vote and the right to keep and bear arms. Denial of that right, based upon an arbitrary age requirement, relegates the Second Amendment to a second-class right.

Justice Clarence Thomas recently wrote as much when he took his fellow Supreme Court justices to task for failing to take up a challenge to California’s 10-day waiting period, writing, “If a lower court treated another right so cavalierly, I have little doubt that this court would intervene. But as evidenced by our continued inaction in this area, the Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this court.”

But 18 Year Olds Can’t…

We’ve heard the arguments to justify infringing on Second Amendment rights with an age requirement increase. They just don’t add up. Can’t buy a beer? Drinking isn’t a right. Can’t rent a car? Again, not a right. Can’t buy a handgun? Another denial of rights. Here’s why it matters. Data clearly show that violence is often committed by young men involved in gang activity, with illegal handguns as the firearms of choice.

This is important. Legal gun ownership isn’t the issue. It’s criminals who flaunt the law to prey upon those who obey it. In Heller the Supreme Court acknowledged the problem of handgun violence but that was not a justification for infringing on the right of law-abiding citizens who overwhelmingly considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon.

Military service has been raised as a point. We enable our 18-year-old adults to wear our nation’s uniform and deploy with firearms to defend our rights. They are trusted with the right to vote. These proposals would deny them the very right they protect when they come home. Raising age requirements would also deny the young spouse who is left at home, often with children, from being able to purchase the firearm that may decide best suits their need for self-protection.

Noted criminologist Gary Kleck performed a longitudinal analysis of the impact of the 1968 ban on 18-20 year olds purchasing handguns. After testing for an impact on the share of violent crime arrests for the adults in this age group, he concluded that the results, “indicate that there was no impact of these age restrictions on handgun purchases, on the 18-to-20 share of arrests for homicide, robbery or aggravated assault.

Bans Didn’t Work

An outright ban on AR-15s, or Modern Sporting Rifles, was tried before and didn’t work.

President Clinton signed a 10-year-ban in 1994 and after it expired, the Centers for Disease Control conducted a study of a variety of gun control measures – including the “assault weapons ban” and found none could be proven to have reduced crime. Homicide statistics demonstrate that the miniscule use of so-called assault weapons” in crime (less than 1 percent) continued to decrease after the ban expired and sales of Modern Sporting Rifle resumed.

Another Congressional study found “the banned weapons were never used in more than a modest fraction of all murders.” The report also noted that so-called “assault weapons” were “rarely used in gun crimes even before the ban.” Only one other of these tragic events involved an “assault rifle” acquired by legal means and in every instance the murderers knowingly broke the law by taking those firearms into a school, a gun-free zone.

It’s important to note, there are nearly 15 million Modern Sporting Rifles (AR and AK styles) privately owned by law-abiding Americans. They are commonly-owned and used for lawful purposes, including target shooting, hunting and self-defense.

Fighting for What Will Work

There are proposals upon which we can all agree. Make background checks work. Pass U.S. Sen. Cornyn’s S. 2135, the FIX NICS Act of 2017. It’s named after NSSF’s FixNICS®campaign, to get states – and now federal agencies – to submit all disqualifying records to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This measure would have prevented the murderer in Sutherland Springs from acquiring firearms and, had authorities in Florida followed through on the multiple reports, it would have prevented the murders in Parkland, too.


  1. avatar Cooter E Lee says:

    I think he hit the nail on the head pretty well.

    I would like to once again challenge anyone with knowledge of mass shooting knowledge:

    Which ones were the perpetrators under 21 and had acquired the firearm used by legal purchase?

    1. avatar Russ in AK says:

      Parkland, Florida for one. That’s why they’re pushing these age restrictions now.

      1. avatar Joe R. says:

        How was it an illegal purchase?

      2. avatar Cooter E Lee says:

        That’s my point.

        The Parkland is the only one I am aware of.

        We want effective ways of stopping the shootings, not knee jerk reactions based on “feels.”

        1. avatar Huntmaster says:

          Actually he was a felon. If the Obama era policies of reducing the arrest and incarceration of high school age criminals by simply ignoring their crimes never existed, he would would be in jail and his victims wouldn’t be in the ground.

        2. avatar Joe R. says:

          So. . . he wasn’t a felon. Broken LEO law enforcement rules notwithstanding I’m not aware of any inappropriate acquiring of firearms by the Parkland ahole.

        3. avatar Huntmaster says:

          Unless you have a real good reason, putting gun against someone’s head is pretty much considered a felony just about everywhere you go in this country. He commited a felony. If one wants to wants to squabble over whether that makes him a felon or not, go ahead and play the fool.

        4. avatar Scoutino says:

          Huntmaster, I know what you mean, but the criminal deed doesn’t make a felon. The conviction does. The a-hole in Fl. was never convicted, because he was never even charged. But the gun grabbing sheriff, who lowered his crime statistics by overlooking crimes, screams it’s the NRA’s fault.

    2. avatar binder says:

      Most of them were used by guns owned by relatives. However, there were two in 2007 and one was a 20 year old cop. I think the typical 18 year old that would shoot a lot of people, probably will not have the money to buy a rifle.

      1. avatar Cooter E Lee says:

        I am ignorant of these two shootings.

        I am sure it has happened and will happen again. If I could refine the question, are 18-21 year old LEGAL purchasers of semiautomatic rifles more or less likely (per capita) than Any other age of LEGAL semi automatic firearm purchasers to commit a mass murder using said weapon.

        Question B, if we find an age range that has the highest probability, is this justification to strip everyone in that age range of their god-given constitutional RTKBA?

        1. avatar Sian says:

          Sample size is far too small to derive anything useful.

          Despite media hysteria, it’s just too rare an event.

      2. avatar neiowa says:

        My son earned enough on the drill weekend he just finished to purchase and AR. BUT apparently if he was standing in Walmart in uniform cash in hand for a Mossburg 500 the SOBs would tell him to FOAD. Sue the bastards

        1. avatar TexTed says:

          Sue them for … what, exactly?

          The same argument that you HAVE to sell a gun to an under-21-year-old, is the same argument that you HAVE to bake a cake for a gay wedding.

          As a businessperson, you’re either free to refuse service to anyone, or you’re not.

  2. avatar stateisevil says:

    Too late. Florida GOP passing it right now in Tallahassee. Gun rights lobby very weak here in contrast to media hype. Bump stock owners will also become instant felons after Governor Scott signs it.

  3. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    If the age of majority is increased for ones second amendment rights,the the voting,military service age needs to follow suit.

    1. avatar AZD says:

      Yes. Also if we are going to infringe 2A rights for that age group, we should also look into limiting their 1A rights as well, maybe make it illegal to have Twitter/Facebook etc accounts. We don’t want them exposed to the garbage on those social media platforms. They are way to impressionable and delicate.

      1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

        This is actually a very good example if loss of 2A rights occur, them more loss of rights will follow.

  4. avatar binder says:

    AR-15s were banned? I was under the impression it was the magazines over 10 rounds and flash hiders (and I know bayonet lugs), not the actual AR-15s . Am I missing something? Now I expect that statement from someone who knows better, but not TAG.

    1. avatar Marty says:

      You must be thinking of laws passed by certain states. Many of the liberal states did pass magazine, pistol grip, muzzle devices etc., but the feds passed a bill to make sales of most ‘black rifles’ illegal. Like this article says, it was a 10 year law and ended in 2004.

    2. avatar Scoutino says:

      Ttag did not write this. NSSF’s VP did.
      “The National Shooting Sports Foundation Senior Vice President Larry Keane writes:”

  5. avatar Joe R. says:

    Finally someone’s throwing around the word Unconstitutional.

    I would like some MF’s of our Reps for Fing once say that it’s “DANGEROUSLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL”.

    and throw in a “All y’all MF’s are on notice.”

  6. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    @ stateisevil

    “Gun rights lobby very weak here ”

    I was under the impression from the NRA,that Tough as nails,Marion Hammer would stave off attacks on Floridians second amendment rights,or Not.

    1. avatar Scoutino says:

      MH can’t be even bothered to show up at any of the NRA board meetings. She is not what she used to be, now she’s a dead weight.

  7. avatar Rincoln says:

    I agree with everything but the background checks. The bill as written is nothing more than a registry of gun owners, and should not be allowed to pass. Plus, I don’t remember the 2nd ending with the clause “unless you’re a criminal.” Background checks themselves are unconstitutional. No man, woman, or child should denied their rights for any reason. If a “criminal” is “too dangerous” to be granted their rights upon release, why were they released?

    Here’s a thought exercise: What defines a criminal? Is it the fact that they don’t follow the law? “Let’s pass more laws! That’ll stop ’em!”

    1. avatar binder says:

      If a “criminal” is “too dangerous” to be granted their rights upon release, why were they released?
      OK,what is the point of sentences, just leave everyone on prison until the are no longer a risk. So how do we know the are no longer “too dangerous”? And really, I would love to hear a real answer, not some flippant remark.

      1. avatar Rincoln says:

        I think you’re tracking in the right direction. “Sentences” are not a functional method of crime deterrence. Prison, in general, is not a working apparatus for the reduction of crime. Most people tend to think of prison as a punishment for crimes committed, and that some people can be “rehabilitated.” The fact is that some people are just “bad,” and will never fit into a civil society. What we really need is a way to separate those who are capable of living civil lives from those who are not. This would immediately reduce the need for most laws and create a safer world. I, also, don’t believe this is possible. So, rather, I would prefer that laws take into account the effect they would proffer for the law-abiding vs. their negative consequence on the same group. Criminals will not be affected, because they will simply not follow the law (by definition).

        1. avatar binder says:

          “What we really need is a way to separate those who are capable of living civil lives from those who are not”
          I would be very careful with a line like that. But if you feel that way, there are a LOT of nice first world police states you can live in. I would recommend Japan, it’s just that their idea of civil might not be yours.

        2. avatar Rincoln says:

          blinder, since your idea is to take my words out of context, there’s no way to have a discussion. I specifically state that it’s unobtainable. The only reasonable thing to do is accept that freedom has consequences, and your safety is your own responsibility.

    2. avatar John in Ohio says:


      (I tend to write my initial comments before reading other comments in order to give my first impression. So, I hadn’t read your very good comment yet. 🙂 )

    3. avatar jwtaylor says:

      “I don’t remember the 2nd ending with the clause “unless you are a criminal.”

      I suggest you go back and read your Constitution and Bill of Rights. Especially the fourth amendment. Because that’s exactly what it says.

      1. avatar Rincoln says:

        “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

        Nope, nothing about the suspension of rights.

        1. avatar Anymouse says:

          It’s the 5th, not 4th: “…, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process…” A convicted criminal (due process) can be deprived of any rights (liberty), as long as it conforms with the 8th: no “cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

      2. avatar Scoutino says:

        Considering the recidivity rates, I don’t think felons are deterred by loss of voting and gun rights. Let’s see which other constitutionally protected rights can we take from someone convicted of crime punishable by 1 year in prison or more.

        No more free speech.
        No right to worship deity of his choice.
        House some troops in his home.
        Sell him as a slave.
        I mean, he had his day in court, due process was done, right?

        Do you guys realize how many laws are there? How easy it would be to find one for any of us if someone really put their mind to it?

  8. avatar John in Ohio says:

    I think most of the time that someone argues from the standpoint of increased firearm ownership does or does not make a difference in crime, it diminishes the basic fact that the right to keep and bear arms is an inalienable individual right. If crime goes through the roof directly as a result of free individual firearm ownership, does it negate the inalienable right? No, it does not. Are you going to give up the exercise of your unalienable individual right to keep and bear arms if less restriction means more crime or more restriction means less crime? I’m not.

    I have a similar problem with calls for increased enforcement of firearm laws already in place. There are enough firearm laws out there to jam a whole lot of people up if those laws are rabidly enforced. Be careful of what you wish for.

    1. avatar Rincoln says:

      Very articulate, strict constitutionalism. I like it!


      1. avatar John in Ohio says:


        Sometimes, I think that the mindset of the POTG has gone backwards since the early 1990s. *sigh*

        1. avatar Scoutino says:

          It’s the brainwashing Eric Holder has been talking about. It works.
          Who remembers times when it was normal to buy guns at gas stations, hardware stores or to mail order them? What about magazine ads for 20 millimeters anti tank rifles –
          have them sent to your house! Tannerite? You could get dynamite at a drugstore!

          The ratchet keeps tightening and people are slowly getting used to less and less freedom in the name of safety.

        2. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

          It wasn’t even that long ago prior to 1968,the drip,drip,drip of incrementalism the goal of gun grabbers.

        3. avatar John in Ohio says:

          It’s the incrementalism that results from any government. Government always tends towards more power. The founders of this nation knew that, wrote about it, and acted on it.

          Incrementalism will never get us back.

    2. avatar John in Ohio says:

      “There are proposals upon which we can all agree. Make background checks work.”

      No! Government mandated background checks for exercising the unalienable individual right to keep and bear arms is an infringement upon that right and an affront to liberty.

      1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

        John in Ohio

        Correct a Infringement.

    3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      Unfortunately, most (all?) of those on the anti-2A side would piss on your rights and wipe their ass with the Constitution. Whining about your rights will get you nowhere, but proving the social utility of private ownership of weapons negates any argument that they ca n come up with.

      1. avatar John in Ohio says:

        You are correct that whining about your rights will get you nowhere. That has been true since the beginning of humanity. You must FIGHT for your rights.

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          This is where arguing the social utility comes in. If we prove our point it might not come to a fight.

        2. avatar John in Ohio says:

          Please don’t misunderstand me… I’m not criticizing the article, except for the background check nonsense. My purpose is to warn that although this rhetoric maybe used by some, it is somewhat disingenuous for someone like myself to put much stock in the argument. I believe that there are a lot of individuals within the POTG who really believe that if increased gun ownership was shown to cause increased crime, then we should accept infringement. I hope they actually think about that process and what that means to the notion of an inalienable individual right; especially one so plainly protected by “shall not be infringed” in the Constitution.

          As we both know, we can talk a blue streak, with all the facts on our side, and government will still consistently and steadfastly push infringement. That’s what all governments do. There will also be the weak minded among us who look to government to completely protect them. That sorry bunch cannot be reasoned with as their fear of responsibility and worship of the State knows no bounds.

  9. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    ‘Drinking isn’t a right.’ – But it should be.

    Working under the assumption that your right to keep and bear arms must be infringed, this still isn’t the way to go about it. As Heller acknowledged, handguns are by far the most popular tools for defense against criminal attack, but if you’re a 19 year old single mother living in a bad neighborhood your right to defend yourself with this tool is not infringed but denied outright. Sure, you c an purchase a shotgun, but it’s pretty hard to carry a baby, diaper bag and a 12ga, even openly – probably impossible concealed. So your right to self defense in public is therefor denied.

    On the other hand, long g uns are more commonly used for hu nting. Hun ting is treated more as a privilege than a right, but it’s a privilege that’s extended to minors. So you ca n go hu nting from the age of 12, but as soon as you turn 18 you’re not allowed to have the tools to go hun ting for 3 years? Imagine giving up your driver’s license for 3 years because now that you’re an adult you can’t be trusted.

    IF, something MUST be done… or allowed to be done, in exchange for increasing the minimum age for buying semi-automatic (and only semi-autos) long gu ns to 21, the age for buying a ha ndgun and legal carry should be dropped to 18. This way most hunt ing tools are still available and the right to self defense is not denied. Not that anything we give up is even remotely constitutional or that it would lower crime, but this compromise would get back something unconstitutional. And the right to self defense outweighs all other rights IMHO, even if you’re under 21.

    1. avatar John in Ohio says:

      “And the right to self defense outweighs all other rights IMHO, even if you’re under 21.”

      I agree; including if one is a former felon. If one is not in lawful, legitimate custody of another then there is nothing moral or constitutional about government depriving them of their right to self defense.

  10. avatar former water walker says:

    So what’s magical about 21?!? I had a wife and kid at 20. A whole lot of mass killers are over 21. THIS is BS…

  11. avatar barnbwt says:

    Am I losing it, or weren’t these NSSF tools promoting the age limit increase in emails like a week ago?

    1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

      What ever the position of the NRA is it by default is the position of the NSSF,two sides of the same coin.

  12. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    @ John in Ohio

    Very articulate, strict constitutionalism. I like it!

    + 2

  13. avatar jimmy james says:

    My pat response to any mention of raising the gun buying age is: the government must then also raise the age requirement to 21 for any soldier going into a combat zone.

  14. avatar Mike B in WI says:

    “So you ca n go hu nting from the age of 12, but as soon as you turn 18 you’re not allowed to have the tools to go hun ting for 3 years?”

    Hey Gov. now THAT is a really interesting twist to the proposed law. The laws would make it illegal to, among other things, “transfer” a rifle/shotgun to someone 18-20, but as you say, those younger than 18 (and WI just eliminated a minimum age for a hunting license) can hunt in most states. Very interesting. Thank you for your insight.

  15. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    “This measure would have prevented the murderer in Sutherland Springs from acquiring firearms …”

    My skin crawls every time I hear something like that. WRONG! Bzzzzzz!!! Raising the purchase age to 21 would only have prevent the attacker from purchasing a rifle at a federal firearms licensee — it would NOT have prevented the attacker from purchasing a rifle from a person or the black market. Nor would it have prevented the attacker from stealing a rifle.

    1. avatar Scoutino says:

      Exactly. Laws can’t prevent anything. They can only get you punished if you brake them. Somehow I don’t see the would-be mass murderer dissuaded by addition of another, relatively minor crime to his conscience.

  16. avatar ironicatbest says:

    Silly people, there is no Constitution America’s Constitution has been null and void since 1918

  17. avatar neiowa says:

    So who says it is proper that 21 is the legal age for a handgun purchase?

  18. avatar little horn says:

    this is all useless when it comes to the Florida shooting. NOTHING in here OR proposed by the lefts, of course, would have stopped him, short of an ARMED GUARD that will actually do his job.

  19. avatar CLarson says:

    As much as I agree with this principles underpinning this article, the people who wrote the Constitution are a dying breed. The people who are replacing them have different traditions and priorities. Expecting some eureka “let’s all follow the Constitution moment is a pipe dream.” The best we can hope for is strong Federalism and local protection of liberty. Pick your State wisely folks.

  20. avatar 2aguy says:

    Is there a good link to the number of AR-15 rifles in the country. I currently use 8 million AR-15s and then millions of other semi auto rifles, but I would like to be closer to the actual number.


    1. avatar Nanashi says:

      Wasn’t there some statistic that the AR15 was 1 in 5 rifles sold in the US? The ATF tracks the rough number of guns in the country (I think it’s over 420 million now). Figure out when that statistic was made, figure out what percent of guns sold are rifles, then figure out how many guns have been sold in the years since.

  21. avatar Nanashi says:

    Bans for any age are unconstitutional. I don’t remember the creator endowing me with the rest of my rights on any particular birthday. That’s why voting is not a natural right (We’re a republic, not a democracy).

  22. avatar tim says:

    Does this mean you will have to be 21 to carry an M4 in the military? The rule would have to be enforced just like Alcohol for those in the military!

  23. avatar derfel cadarn says:

    ANY restriction on firearms ownership is unConstitutional ! Infringed does NOT come in degrees. Infringe: act so as to limit or undermine, to encroach upon. Not a lot of wiggle room in the word.

  24. avatar Docduracoat says:

    The Florida Senate passed the bill with arming some teachers, raising rifle purchase age and banning bump stocks
    The house is still debating it and the house bill is slightly different
    I e mailed every member of the Florida house to vote against gun control and to put armed guards ( not armed teachers) in the schools
    There is still some hope that it will not pass as the Democrats are dead set against arming teachers and Republicans SHOULD be against gun control

  25. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    I remember when the three L’s, Libertarians, Liberals and the Left, supported lowering the age of consent. In fact some said it was unfair that gay teen sex had a higher age of consent than straight teen sex age of consent.

    The many of the same people who want to encourage teen adult sex also want children disarmed.

  26. avatar Steve Day says:

    Fix NICS may have good intentions, but it is fundamentally flawed and should not be passed into law.

    If you received an out-of-state parking ticket and failed to show up to the hearing (which may be several thousand miles from your home) then you are technically a fugitive and under Fix-NICS you will be entered into a list and your Rights will be denied!

    Also, is it just me or would it be unconstitutional to ban gun ownership for someone just because they suffer from PTSD, ADHD, or Alzheimers – Even though they are not a threat to themselves or anyone else??! That’s exactly what Fix NICS is written to do.

    Defenders of Fix NICS argue that an improvement to NICS in the bill is that incorrect records banning somebody from exercising their Civil Rights would have to be fixed within 60 days… Well that is already in current law and IT DOESN’T WORK! The government ignores it – I can attest to that fact as being wrongly denied for many months myself and I am not alone!

    Another critical flaw is that it overrules the part of previous law that specifically state that the Federal government is not allowed to build a database of gun-owners – so it would then be allowed to build a universal database of gun owners. Not good!

    Fix NICS must not pass as is!

    1. avatar John in Ohio says:

      “Fix NICS must not pass as is!”

      It must not pass at all. NO gun control.

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