“Our nation’s most cherished constitutional rights vest no later than 18.” That’s a fact and a finding that’s awfully inconvenient for the moral superiors who make up the Civilian Disarmament Industrial Complex. They’re highly invested in the prospect that people who are old enough to vote and serve in the military can’t possibly be trusted with the awesome responsibility that is handgun ownership.
Sadly for them, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling today finding that denying full Second Amendment rights to Americans aged 18 to 20 years old is patently unconstitutional.
As Judge Julius Richardson wrote for the three-judge panel . . .
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.
Plaintiffs seek 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. We first find that 18-year-olds possess Second Amendment rights. They enjoy almost every other constitutional right, and they were required at the time of the Founding to serve in the militia and furnish their own weapons. We then ask, as our precedent requires, whether the government has met its burden to justify its infringement of those rights under the appropriate level of scrutiny. To justify this restriction, Congress used disproportionate crime rates to craft overinclusive laws that restrict the rights of overwhelmingly law-abiding citizens. And in doing so, Congress focused on purchases from licensed dealers without establishing those dealers as the source of the guns 18- to 20-year-olds use to commit crimes. So we hold that the challenged federal laws and regulations are unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. 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. (emphasis added).
Richardson is a Trump appointee. He was joined in the decision by Judge G. Steven Agee (a George W. Bush appointee). Judge James A. Wynn (a Clinton appointee) dissented.
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.
You can read the full ruling here.
The Department of Just will no doubt appeal and ask for an en banc hearing of case, Hirschfeld v. ATF. Don’t touch that dial.