For years, law-abiding adults have been prohibited from buying handguns in the United States. Not all law-abiding adults, mind you, but an awful lot of them. In particular, those adults under the age of 21.
They could buy shotguns and rifles, including the notorious AR-15, but they couldn’t buy a handgun of any kind. Now, a court has found that this federal prohibition is unconstitutional. Reuters reports:
A federal judge in Virginia has struck down federal laws that block the sale of handguns to buyers under the age of 21, ruling they violate constitutional rights to possess firearms.
The ruling, which the Justice Department is expected to challenge, will not take effect until judge Robert Payne, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush, issues his final order in the coming weeks.
The ruling would not affect the 19 states that have their own laws barring handgun sales to anyone younger than 21.
Payne’s ruling follows on the Supreme Court’s significant expansion of gun rights in the past year, which the judge frequently referenced in his ruling issued on Wednesday.
‘Because the statutes and regulations in question are not consistent with our nation’s history and tradition, they, therefore, cannot stand,’ Payne wrote in his decision.
While the Department of Justice didn’t respond to a request for comment from Reuters, it’s generally believed they will appeal the decision.
Of course, that just brings it closer to the Supreme Court, which upset all the gun control apple carts with the Bruen decision last year. As such, it doesn’t seem particularly likely that the Court would side with the Department of Justice on this one.
Upholding this decision at any stage, though, would be for the best.
Under the status quo, we had a two-tier system for law-abiding citizens of legal age. Some got full rights and others didn’t.
Those impacted by this ruling are also the very people who could be conscripted to serve in the military against their will ostensibly to fight and potentially die for rights they, themselves, were never permitted to fully enjoy.
This is especially true since many states have started restricting these same people from buying certain types of rifles, primarily so-called “assault weapons” like the AR-15. As such, folks in this age group found themselves legally barred from two of the most ideal categories of guns for self-defense.
Ending this prohibition was clearly the right move, but will it actually hold up to the upper courts? Is there a chance of it going to the Supreme Court and the prohibition be upheld?
While there’s always a possibility of the justices ruling a different way than they previously did, the risk of that happening here is minimal unless the Department of Justice finds some bit of history previously lost to the ages.
The last Second Amendment case the Supreme Court ruled on was NYSRPA vs Bruen (or just “Bruen” as most call it). In that case, the Court ruled that gun control laws can only pass constitutional muster if there was an analog from around the time of the nation’s founding.
Without that, there’s no reason to believe such a restriction would have been acceptable to the Founding Fathers. So far, I’ve never seen an age restriction that bars law-abiding adults who can vote, sign contracts, enlist in the military, marry, and otherwise conduct business as adults do from owning a gun.
Unless the DOJ finds something to the contrary, it’s unlikely this ruling will be overturned.
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