Virginia judge strikes down law banning young adults from purchasing handguns

(The Center Square) – A Virginia federal judge has struck down a law banning adults under the age of 21 from purchasing handguns, saying the law violates the Constitution.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Payne issued a 71-page ruling determining the Constitution does not exclude 18- to 20-year-olds from other constitutional guarantees, such as voting and enlisting in the military.

“If the Court were to exclude 18- to-20-year-olds from the Second Amendment’s protection, it would impose limitations on the Second Amendment that do not exist with other constitutional guarantees,” Payne wrote. “Because the statutes and regulations in question are not consistent with our Nation’s history and tradition, they, therefore, cannot stand.”

The case stems from a lawsuit brought in May 2022 involving a 20-year-old Virginia college student, John Corey Fraser, who attempted to purchase a handgun from a licensed dealer and sporting goods store in Ashland. Fraser was denied the purchase due to his age.

Fraser’s case has turned into a class action lawsuit challenging the 1968 Gun Control Act imposed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

In Payne’s ruling, he cited the U.S. Supreme Court case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, which struck down a New York law that limits where gun owners can carry guns and required individuals applying for gun-carrying permits to demonstrate a need for self-protection.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issued the majority opinion in the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, writing, “We recognized that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect the right of an ordinary, law-abiding citizen to possess a handgun in the home for self-defense. In this case, petitioners and respondents agree that ordinary, law-abiding citizens have a similar right to carry handguns publicly for their self-defense.”

Thomas concluded New York’s public-carry licenses “based on special need for self-defense” were in violation of the Constitution.

Janet Carter, senior director of issues and appeals at Everytown, an anti-gun violence advocacy group, was critical of the ruling citing the rate of gun violence committed by 18- to 20-year-olds.

“Not only are guns the leading cause of death for U.S. kids and teens, but research shows us that 18- to 20-year-olds commit gun homicides at triple the rate of adults 21 years and older. 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,” said Carter.

“The court’s ruling will undoubtedly put lives at risk. It must be reversed,” Carter said.

Virginia Congressman Ben Cline celebrated the ruling as a victory for the Constitution.

“A federal judge says, if you are old enough to wear the uniform and defend our country in war, you are old enough to freely exercise your constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” Cline tweeted. “This ruling is a WIN for the Second Amendment.”

The U.S. Department of Justice is expected to challenge the ruling.

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