The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that banning anyone over 18 but under 21 from purchasing handguns violates the Second Amendment.
The two-to-one vote which nullified federal laws that unconstitutionally prohibit people under 21 from purchasing a handgun, comes after the plaintiff, 19-year-old Natalia Marshall was denied a gun from a licensed dealer despite her fears that her abusive ex-boyfriend who “had been arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm and controlled substances” was released on bail and did not show up in court.
“History makes clear that 18- to 20-year-olds were understood to fall under the Second Amendment’s protections,” the court stated in the ruling. “Those over 18 were universally required to be part of the militia near the ratification, proving that they were considered part of ‘the people’ who enjoyed Second Amendment rights, and most other constitutional rights apply to this age group. And 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.”
In the decision, the judges made it clear that while they “appreciate the seriousness of gun violence in this country and applaud Congress’s laudable desire to curb senseless violence,” the Second Amendment “embodies a fundamental, pre-existing right that enables ‘the people’ to preserve their own life, liberty, and property.”
Judge Julius Richardson authored the opinion asking, “when do constitutional rights vest?”
“At 18 or 21? 16 or 25? Why not 13 or 33? In the law, a line must sometimes be drawn. But there must be a reason why constitutional rights cannot be enjoyed until a certain age. 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,” Richardson wrote.
While Judge Steven Agee concurred with this take, Judge James Wynn dissented and claimed that the court’s rationale was unlawful.
“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 wrote.
He also argued that the Second Amendment is not immune to restriction when it comes to keeping people safe.
“The Second Amendment is exceptional not because it is uniquely oppressed or imperiled, but rather because it is singularly capable of causing harm,” he continued. “As other courts have recognized, while there are dangers inherent in other constitutionally protected rights—like the rights to speak and assemble—the Second Amendment alone protects a direct and lethal right to endanger oneself and others.”
The National Rifle Association previously filed an appeal in Atlanta’s 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a judge upheld a Florida law banning individuals under the age of 21 from being able to buy guns.