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.
It seems the increasing frequency of mass shootings is doing nothing to strengthen gun laws. Indeed, the reverse seems to be happening as conservatives in general, and gun supporters in particular, lobby for easier access, taking recourse to the Second Amendment.
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.
Experts say that this ruling is likely to be appealed, but the fear is that more and more judges may use it as a precedent to issue similar rulings, eventually facilitating gun sales to 18-year-olds.
In the last couple of years, California, Florida and Washington state have responded to the string of mass shootings by young men by raising the minimum age to buy certain kinds of rifles, such as the Bushmaster. But gun rights groups, meanwhile, have sued, calling this a violation of young adults’ Second Amendment rights.
Many ask, why can you buy a gun at 18 but not alcohol? The answer offered may be unconvincing to most, especially anyone who has been following the frequent and horrifying mass shootings–particularly in schools– “because it was found that drinking, particularly in college environments, was posing a serious problem for America’s youth. School shootings are a much larger issue but the power of the gun lobby prevents any action toward common sense gun control in the United States.”
While it is undeniable that drinking among young people is a problem, it is self-evident that gun possession is at least equally so. The difference probably lies in the power that gun lobbyists wield in Washington D.C.
“There’s a big fight brewing over these restrictions on guns for 18, 19, and 20-year-olds because the courts are in the midst of a great expansion of Second Amendment gun rights,” says Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor who writes about gun policy.
He goes on to point out that, “It makes sense to appeal. This is a fight worth fighting, and again, look at what happened in Buffalo. You have to be 25 to rent a car. You have to be 21 to drink. Why would we put a semi-automatic rifle in the hands of a teenager?”
Opponents rebut that, “drinking and driving a car aren’t constitutionally protected,” says Evan Jones, a gun enthusiast in Texas who just recently turned 22.
“Eighteen to 21-year-olds, they have all the same rights and responsibilities as any other adult. And it’s not fair to single out and deprive them of one right,” he says.