RICHMOND (VA) (AP). A federal judge ruled in Virginia that a Virginia law prohibiting licensed federal firearms dealers to sell handguns under 21 years of age violates the Second Amendment.
If not overturned by the U.S. district court judge Robert Payne, this ruling would prohibit dealers from selling guns to anyone aged 18 to 20.
Payne's 71-page decision stated that many rights and responsibilities are given to citizens at 18 years old, including the right of voting, the ability to enlist without parental consent, and the opportunity to serve on a federal juries.
Payne wrote that if the Court excluded 18-to-20 year-olds, they would be imposing limitations on the Second Amendment, which do not exist for other constitutional rights. The statutes and regulations are incompatible with the history and traditions of our nation, and therefore cannot be upheld.
Payne's decision is the latest to strike down gun laws following a landmark Supreme Court verdict last year which changed the test courts had used for years to evaluate challenges against firearm restrictions. The Supreme Court ruled that judges no longer need to consider whether a law is in the public interest, such as enhancing public security. The Supreme Court stated that governments who want to maintain a gun ban must go back in history to prove it's consistent with the country’s ‘historical tradition of firearm regulations.'
In the months that have passed since the ruling, many courts have declared laws unconstitutional, including those designed to keep firearms out of the hands domestic abusers, defendants on felony charges, and a law prohibiting the possession of guns without the serial number. In a recent ruling, a federal judge cited the Supreme Court decision to rule against a Minnesota law that prohibits 18-to-20-year-olds to get permits to carry handguns on public transportation. Last year, a Texas judge invalidated a law restricting the use of guns by young adults.
Payne, in his ruling, cited the Supreme Court's ruling of 2022 repeatedly. He wrote that the government had failed to provide 'any evidence' of age-based restrictions for the sale or purchase of firearms during the colonial period, Founding, or Early Republic. He wrote that there were no similar laws from these periods, which indicates the founders believed age-based restrictions on firearm purchases would circumscribe their right to bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment.
John Corey Fraser, 20 and several other plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of Gun Control Act of 68 and its associated regulations by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) after they were refused when they attempted to purchase handguns.
Elliott Harding is Fraser's lawyer. 'Even if it means that future purchasers can now buy these firearms under the federal system, which includes background checks and requirements', we expect that the defendants will file an appeal. He is confident that the decision will be upheld.
Harding stated that the lawsuit was intended to 'close a loophole,' as 18-to-20-year-olds are already able to buy handguns through private sellers. This process is 'completely regulated.
He said: "This allows them the opportunity to buy a firearm directly from a manufacturer. They will also have to undergo background checks." They have to follow the usual steps when purchasing a gun.
Everytown Law, which advocates in court for the prevention of gun violence and has filed briefs supporting age restrictions, stated that the law was constitutional and a vital tool to prevent gun violence.
Janet Carter is Everytown Law’s senior director for issues and appeals. She said: 'Guns are the number one cause of death among U.S. teens and kids. But research shows that gun homicides committed by 18-to-20-year-olds are three times higher than those of adults older than 21.
She said that the Court's decision will put lives in danger. It must be overturned.
The Justice Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have not responded to emails asking for comment on the decision.
Alanna Durkin Richer, AP Legal Affairs reporter in Boston, contributed to this report.