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APPEALS COURT: You Don’t Have to Be 21 to Own a Gun

By: Teresa Mull

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled that denying people under the age of 21 the right to buy a gun is unconstitutional.

“Despite the weighty interest in reducing crime and violence, we refuse to relegate either the Second Amendment or 18- to 20-year-olds to a second-class status,” Judge Julius Richardson wrote in the majority opinion for Hirschfeld v. ATF (read the full decision here).

Richardson further explained:

"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."

The case text states that plaintiffs Natalia Marshall and Tanner Hirschfeld, “two adult citizens under the age of twenty-one” from Virginia, are prospective buyers who tried to purchase firearms from a Federal Firearms License (FFL) dealer for self-defense, but were denied because of their age.

Nineteen-year-old Marshall, it’s worth reporting (from the “background” of the case issued in the decision):

“…had good reason to seek protection. She 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. Along with the threat from her ex-boyfriend, Marshall works as an equestrian trainer, often finding herself in remote rural areas where she interacts with unfamiliar people. Having grown up training with guns, she believes that a handgun’s ease of carrying, training, and use makes it the most effective tool for her protection from these and other risks. But because Marshall was 18 when she tried to buy a handgun, a federal law prevented her from buying from a licensed dealer who would perform a background check to verify that she was not a felon or other prohibited person.”

Richardson noted previously that, “At the time of the founding, firearm possession was permitted for those under the age of 21.”

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Elliott Harding, argued, according to courthousenews.com, “If the founders wanted to put an age limit on the Second Amendment they knew how to do so. The people could have added an age limit via amendment as well.”

“The Justice Department will almost certainly appeal the decision,” reports rollcall.com.

Teresa Mull (teresa@gunpowdermagazine.com) is editor of Gunpowder Magazine.

 
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