RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that a law banning licensed federal firearms dealers from selling handguns to young adults under 21 violates the Second Amendment and is unconstitutional.
The ruling Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Payne in Richmond, if not overturned, would allow dealers to sell handguns to 18- to 20-year-olds.
In his 71-page ruling, Payne wrote that many of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship are granted at the age of 18, including the right to vote, enlist in the military without parental permission and serve on a federal jury.
“If the Court were to exclude 18-to-20-year-olds from the Second Amendment’s protection, it would impose limitations on the Second Amendment that do not exist with other constitutional guarantees,” Payne wrote.
“Because the statutes and regulations in question are not consistent with our Nation’s history and tradition, they, therefore, cannot stand,” he wrote.
Payne’s ruling is the latest decision striking down gun laws in the wake of a landmark Supreme Court ruling last year that changed the test courts have long used to evaluate challenges to firearm restrictions. The Supreme Court said judges should no longer consider whether the law serves public interests, like enhancing public safety. Governments that want to uphold a gun restriction must look back into history to show it is consistent with the country’s “historical tradition of firearm regulation,” the Supreme Court said.
Payne, who cited the 2022 Supreme Court ruling repeatedly in his ruling, wrote that the government failed to present “any evidence of age-based restrictions on the purchase or sale of firearms from the colonial era, Founding or Early Republic.” The lack of similar regulations from those time periods indicates that the “Founders considered age-based regulations on the purchase of firearms to circumscribe the right to keep and bear arms confirmed by the Second Amendment,” he wrote.
John Corey Fraser, 20, along with several other plaintiffs, challenged the constitutionality of the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the associated regulations from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after they were turned down when they tried to buy handguns.
“Even though it ensures that future buyers can now purchase these firearms in the federal system — one that includes background checks and other requirements — we expect the defendants will appeal,” said Elliott Harding, Fraser’s attorney. He said he is optimistic that the ruling will be affirmed.
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