Trying to avoid this conclusion, the NRA responds that that Founding Era federal law obliged 18-to-20-year-olds to join the mi- litia. See, e.g., Act of May 8, 1792, ch. 33, § 1, 1 Stat. 271, 271 (re- quiring “each and every free able-bodied white citizen” that is over “the age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years” to “enroll in the militia”). In other words, the NRA contends that the fact that Congress required 18-to-20-year-olds to muster for the militia is compelling evidence that 18-to-20-year-olds had the right to an unimpeded ability to purchase firearms.
The NRA’s conclusion is incorrect. The NRA mistakes a le- gal obligation for a right. See Heller, 554 U.S. at 605 (explaining that the Second Amendment “protects an individual right uncon- nected with militia service”); see also id. at 582, 601, 608, 610, 611, 612, 613, 616, 617. The fact that federal law obliged 18-to-20-year- olds to join the militia does not mean that 18-to-20-year-olds had an absolute right to buy arms.
To the contrary, the historical record shows that merely be- ing part of the militia did not entitle 18-to-20-year-olds to enjoy the same political and civil rights as adults. See, e.g., Corinne T. Field, The Struggle for Equal Adulthood: Gender, Race, Age, and the Fight for Citizenship in Antebellum America 55 (2014) (explaining that, during the early nineteenth century, the “relevance of chron- ological age stood out most sharply in the celebration of age twenty-one as a transition to full citizenship for white men”). For instance, the Tennessee Supreme Court expressly rejected the ar- gument that “every citizen who is subject to military duty has the right ‘to keep and bear arms,’ and that this right necessarily implies the right to buy or otherwise acquire, and the right in others to give, sell, or loan to him” firearms and concluded instead that Ten- nessee’s prohibition on the sale, gifting, or lending of firearms to those under 21 “d[id] not in fact abridge, the constitutional right of the ‘citizens of the State to keep and bear arms for their common defense.’” Callicutt, 69 Tenn. at 716.
In other words, Congress imposed upon 18-to-20-year-olds a specific obligation to serve in the militia but did not give them all the rights associated with full citizenship (like, at that time, the right to vote). So we can’t infer from the fact that 18-to-20-year- olds had a specific obligation that they had a specific right.
Plus, even assuming that the Founding Era federal muster- ing obligations could be viewed as entitling 18-to-20-year-olds to buy firearms in 1791, that’s not the public understanding that pre- vails here. Rather, it’s clear that the public understanding of the Second Amendment at the time of the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification—as demonstrated by the wealth of Fourteenth Amend- ment-Ratification Era analogues for Florida’s law—permitted the states to limit the sale of firearms to those 21 and older. See Ap- pendix (collecting laws that banned 18-to-20-year-olds from buying or possessing firearms). So even if federal law obliged 18-to-20- year-olds to muster for the militia, laws banning that same group from buying firearms do not infringe on the right to keep and bear arms. And the fact that Congress required 18-to-20-year-olds to muster for the militia cannot overcome the litany of historical analogues that are relevantly similar to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.