Federal Judge Strikes Down Handgun Sales Ban for Adults Under 21
In a significant victory for Second Amendment advocates, a federal judge in West Virginia has delivered a resounding blow to the unconstitutional restrictions on handgun sales imposed on adults under the age of 21. The decision, handed down by U.S. District Judge Thomas Kleeh, marks a critical milestone in the ongoing battle for individual gun rights.
The case, championed by the Second Amendment Foundation and the West Virginia Citizens Defense League along with young adults Steven Brown and Benjamin Weekley, challenged the federal prohibition on commercial handgun sales to individuals between the ages of 18 and 21. Judge Kleeh’s ruling in favor of the plaintiffs not only dismantles a discriminatory policy but also underscores the broader issue of safeguarding the constitutional rights of all Americans.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) had contended that although individuals under 21 retained the right to possess a handgun under federal law, the prohibition on purchasing one was justifiable. Judge Kleeh swiftly rejected this argument, highlighting that the key issue was the denial of the right to purchase handguns and ammunition from Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) due to the age-based ban.
The judge aptly dismissed the DOJ’s assertion that the ability of parents or guardians to purchase a handgun for individuals between 18 and 20 mitigated any harm suffered. Drawing parallels to a First Amendment case, Judge Kleeh emphasized that the deprivation of a constitutional right constituted an injury, regardless of potential workarounds.
Moreover, the court rejected the erroneous distinction made by the government between the right to possess and the right to purchase firearms. While the Second Amendment may not explicitly protect the right to purchase firearms, it logically follows that such a right must exist for the “keep and bear arms” clause to hold its complete meaning and effect.
The court’s decision aligns with recent rulings in cases challenging age-based restrictions on Second Amendment rights, reinforcing the principle that the right to possess a firearm inherently includes the right to acquire one through legal means.
The DOJ’s attempt to justify the ban based on historical age of majority laws and 19th-century gun safety regulations was summarily dismissed by Judge Kleeh. The court rightly emphasized that constitutional rights are anchored in their historical context, and the government’s reliance on outdated regulations failed to meet the criteria of longstanding national traditions surrounding the right to bear arms.
This landmark decision not only enjoins the DOJ from enforcing the ban on handgun sales against the individual plaintiffs but also extends protection to otherwise-qualified 18-to-20-year-olds. It signals a broader shift in the legal landscape regarding age-based restrictions on Second Amendment rights.
As the barriers preventing young adults from exercising their full Second Amendment rights continue to crumble, these legal victories underscore the importance of preserving and upholding the constitutional rights of all citizens. The ruling serves as a crucial reminder that arbitrary age-based restrictions cannot stand in the way of individual freedoms enshrined in the United States Constitution.