BREAKING: 4th Circuit panel rules the federal law requiring handgun buyers to be 21 or older is unconstitutional

The case will presumably make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court

In a decision released today, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that 18, 19 and 20-year-olds have Second Amendment rights, and should therefore be allowed to purchase handguns.

The case, Hirschfeld v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, will likely be reviewed en banc by the full Fourth Circuit, and then will presumably make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the case, the appellate judges answered the question: When do constitutional rights vest? At the age of 18, they ruled.

The case was filed on behalf of Tanner Hirschfeld and Natalia Marshall.  

Marshall tried to buy a handgun for self-defense, but was refused because she was 19. She had a valid protection order against an abusive ex-boyfriend, who was wanted by police on weapon and drug charges.

Hirschfeld turned 21 while the case was being litigated, so his claims became moot.

According to the decision, the plaintiffs sought “an injunction and a declaratory judgment that several federal laws and regulations that prevent federally licensed gun dealers from selling handguns to any 18-, 19-, or 20-year-old violate the Second Amendment.”

The case was rejected at the district court level, which sided with the defendants and dismissed the case. Giffords, Brady and Everytown filed Amici in support of the ATF.

The three-judge panel didn’t buy it.

“History makes clear that 18- to 20-year-olds were understood to fall under the Second Amendment’s protections. Those over 18 were universally required to be part of the militia near the ratification, proving that they were considered part of ‘the people’ who enjoyed Second Amendment rights, and most other constitutional rights apply to this age group. And Congress may not restrict the rights of an entire group of law-abiding adults because a minuscule portion of that group commits a disproportionate amount of gun violence. Congress’s failure to connect handgun purchases from licensed dealers to youth gun violence only serves to highlight the law’s ‘unduly tenuous ‘fit’ with the government’s substantial interests. Eighteen- to twenty-year-olds have Second Amendment rights, and the challenged laws impermissibly burden those rights,” the order states.  

The judges vacated the district court’s motion to dismiss, reversed the denial of summary judgment, and remanded the case for further proceedings.

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