A federal judge in Virginia has blocked a set of laws that would prevent those ages 18 to 20 from buying firearms, declaring the proposals unconstitutional.
“Because the statutes and regulations in question are not consistent with our Nation’s history and tradition, they, therefore, cannot stand,” U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne ruled. “No federal appellate court, much less the Supreme Court, has squarely determined that the Second Amendment’s rights vest at age 21”
Payne ruled that despite federal restrictions around alcohol and tobacco exist in effect until age 21, those substances are not protected under the constitution in the way guns are.
“If the Court were to exclude 18-to-21-year-olds from the Second Amendment’s protection, it would impose limitations on the Second Amendment that do not exist with other constitutional guarantees. It is firmly established that the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eight, and Fourteenth Amendments vest before the age of 21," he wrote, adding, "Like these other rights, the Second Amendment’s protections apply to 18-to-20-year-olds."
Legal groups have since appealed Payne's decision, as it will overhaul existing gun control measures. Those in the age group could previously purchase firearms in private sales, but the decision will overwrite legal framework that has prevent sales to teenagers for years.
The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed an amicus brief for the existing rules to be upheld, with attorney William T. Clark saying “there is compelling scientific evidence showing that teenagers are more impulsive and face unique elevated dangers from firearms.”
In the United States, guns are the leading cause of death for adolescents. 18-to-20-year-olds in particular commit gun homicides at triple the rate of adults 21 years and older, according to Everytown for Gun Safety senior director of issues and appeals Janet Carter. Everytown Law has also filed in support of the age restrictions.
“The federal law prohibiting federally licensed firearms dealers from selling handguns to individuals under the age of 21 is not just an essential tool for preventing gun violence, it is also entirely constitutional," Carter said. "The Court’s ruling will undoubtedly put lives at risk. It must be reversed.”