In a split ruling, a federal appeals court panel struck down the long-standing ban on handgun sales to young adults in the 18-20-year age group, declaring it an unconstitutional violation of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
The 2-1 ruling came down from the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. It was authored by Judge Julius N. Richardson, a Donald Trump appointee, with a dissent by Judge James A. Wynn, a Barack Obama appointee. This underscores the contention that presidential and senate elections matter, not just regarding the candidates, but on which party fills federal court vacancies.
Judge Richardson noted in his 88-page majority opinion that “Looking through this historical lens to the text and structure of the Constitution reveals that 18- to 20-year-olds have Second Amendment rights. Virtually every other constitutional right applies whatever the age. And the Second Amendment is no different.”
But Judge Wynn allowed political philosophy to show through when he wrote, “But 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.”
The judge also observed, “No, the Second Amendment is exceptional not because it is uniquely oppressed or imperiled, but rather because it is singularly capable of causing harm.”
There is an argument that the “gun lobby” didn’t win anything but the Constitution and young adults did. The Second Amendment doesn’t hurt anyone, but criminals using firearms cause the harm.
Judge Richardson was joined in the majority opinion by Judge G. Steven Agee, a George W. Bush appointee.
The Second Amendment Foundation weighed in Wednesday, calling the ruling a “monumentally victory for Second Amendment rights.”
“Judge Richardson, in my estimation, has authored one of the best-written opinions in any gun rights case I’ve ever read,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “He has detailed the issue, provided the history and offered a perspective that doesn’t bow to political correctness.”
In a prepared statement, Gottlieb said he was especially impressed with Judge Richardson’s notation about the ironic nature of the gun control law being challenged.
“The irony does not escape us,” Judge Richardson wrote, “that, under the government’s reasoning, the same 18- to 20-year-old men and women we depend on to protect us in the armed forces and who have since our Founding been trusted with the most sophisticated weaponry should nonetheless be prevented from purchasing a handgun from a federally licensed dealer for their own protection at home.”
The case was brought by now-19-year-old Natalia Marshall, who had been “forced to obtain a protective order against her abusive ex-boyfriend who, since the issuance of the order, had been arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm and controlled substances. He was released on bail but never came to court, leading to the issuance of a capias for his arrest,” the ruling noted.
Marshall was 18 when she wanted to purchase a handgun from a licensed dealer for personal protection, but the law would not allow it, so the lawsuit was filed.
While this was not a SAF case, Gottlieb said the ruling is significant.
“We have similar cases pending in Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Washington, California, Minnesota and other states that this Fourth Circuit ruling could directly impact,” Gottlieb said. “The importance of common-sense decisions such as Judge Richardson’s cannot be over-stated.”
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