The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled on Friday that three Georgia citizens under 21 years old have standing to sue county probate judges over the state law that disallows issuing carry licenses to people under 21. The case is an appeal from the US District Court for the Southern District of Georgia Dublin Division.
Circuit Judge Andrew L. Brasher authored the majority opinion of the three-judge panel. Brasher found that the plaintiffs had standing to sue local judges tasked with issuing carry permits but not to sue Georgia’s Commissioner of Public Safety. Brasher noted that, under Article III of the Constitution’s case-and-controversy requirement, the court can only hear justiciable matters. For a matter to be justiciable, the plaintiffs must have standing, the case must be ripe and the case must not be moot. Here, Brasher concluded that the plaintiffs have standing because they have to choose between carrying a gun without a license and being prosecuted or potentially giving up a constitutional right.
Additionally, Brasher ruled that the plaintiffs have standing even if they have not applied to get a carry license because, to suffer an injury-in-fact, plaintiffs do not have to submit a formal application that would be a “futile gesture.” Brasher also found that the judges could be sued because they are not acting in their judicial capacity when issuing licenses because it is a “ministerial function that the legislature happened to assign to these judges.” Lastly, Brasher concluded that the case is ripe and not moot. Thus, Brasher remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings.
The plaintiffs in this case sued state probate judges because, under Georgia law, people under 21 are automatically ineligible to obtain a carry license unless they are on active duty or honorably discharged members of the military. The plaintiffs argue that this law violates their Second Amendment rights and requested a declaration that the age restriction is unconstitutional. However, the district court dismissed the case, ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue the judges and the commissioner.
This is not the only recent US appeals court ruling concerning carry licenses. In January, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit blocked Pennsylvania laws that functionally prohibited young adults between the ages of 18 and 20 from carrying firearms during a state of emergency. Additionally, in January, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dissolved a previous stay that allowed a California law to go into effect prohibiting concealed carry permit holders from carrying firearms in most public places, blocking the law.