Federal appeals court finds law banning gun sales to people under 21 unconstitutional

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the federal law banning handgun sales by licensed dealers to anyone under 21 is unconstitutional.

“Our nation’s most cherished constitutional rights vest no later than 18. And the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms is no different,” the majority opinion of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court in Richmond, Virginia, said.

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“We first find that 18-year-olds possess Second Amendment rights,” Judge Julius Richardson wrote. “They enjoy almost every other constitutional right, and they were required at the time of the Founding to serve in the militia and furnish their own weapons.”

The court determined that Congress used misleading data to justify the 1968 law. “Congress may not restrict the rights of an entire group of law-abiding adults because a minuscule portion of that group commits a disproportionate amount of gun violence,” the majority said.

The ruling only applies to the five states within the 4th Circuit, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. A separate federal law allows anyone over 18 to purchase long guns, such as rifles and shotguns.

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Writing his dissent, Judge James A. Wynn Jr. said that the ruling will cause more gun violence. “The majority’s decision to grant the gun lobby a victory in a fight it lost on Capitol Hill more than fifty years ago is not compelled by law. Nor is it consistent with the proper role of the federal judiciary in our democratic system.”

Wynn Jr. says the second amendment is different from all other rights, as it is “singularly capable of causing harm.”

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in New Orleans, upheld the federal law restricting sales to those under 21 in 2012, stating that it was “consistent with a long-standing tradition of targeting select groups’ ability to access and to use arms for the sake of public safety.”

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