Judge: No More Barring 18- to 20-Year-Olds From Buying Handguns

Decision is expected to be placed on hold as higher courts consider the case
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 12, 2023 1:30 AM CDT
Judge Strikes Down Age Limit Barring 18- to 20-Year-Olds From Buying Handguns
Stock photo   (Getty Images / tanawit sabprasan)

Federally licensed weapons dealers are subject to laws and regulations barring them from selling handguns to anyone under 21—but on Wednesday, a judge in Virginia struck those laws and regulations down, ruling that 18- to 20-year-olds cannot be barred from buying handguns. "Because the statutes and regulations in question are not consistent with our Nation’s history and tradition, they, therefore, cannot stand," the judge wrote, per the Washington Post. The judge noted that other constitutional rights have no such age limitation, and said no court has "squarely determined" that Second Amendment rights "vest at age 21." Those 18 and over can already legally purchase handguns from private, unlicensed dealers, the New York Times reports, and they can purchase long guns from both private as well as federally licensed dealers.

"Eighteen-year-olds can legally buy a Glock in the parking lot of a gun store. This is about letting them walk through the front door, and going through all the same background checks they would undergo if they were buying a shotgun," says the lawyer who represented the young adults who brought the case. The Justice Department is expected to appeal and request a stay, which would mean the ruling would not take effect as higher courts consider the case. Those in favor of the regulations say science has shown teenagers to be more impulsive than older adults, that they are more likely to commit gun violence than those aged 21 and older, and that handguns are more widely used for violent crime.

The ruling, per the Times, is "one of the first successful challenges to gun control laws under the Supreme Court’s landmark 2022 Bruen decision," which struck down a New York state law regarding carrying guns in public. The Bruen opinion states that "constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them," and the judge in the Virginia case said that even though adulthood began at 21 when the country was founded, 18-year-olds were allowed to join militias. "It is not at all clear that the age of majority at the Founding is the appropriate measure for measuring the reach of the Second Amendment," he wrote. (More gun laws stories.)

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