For decades, a disturbing trend has been afoot. Instead of treating teenagers mostly like adults and then giving them their full rights at age 18, people have been taking the rights of young adults away, citing a variety of excuses, many of them politically motivated. Alcohol, smoking, tobacco, and buying a handgun are all off-limits until 21, with people pushing for even higher age restrictions for some of these and others.
But despite this rampant and unchecked age discrimination for adult citizens, society still expects young men to register for the draft and entrusts young men and women with something as important as voting (some, of course, want to lower that one). Older adults with a decidedly authoritarian bent want to restrict the rights of young people while still expecting them to assume the full responsibilities of citizenship.
That viewpoint, however, took a big blow on Friday. In a case filed in the Northern District of West Virginia, a federal judge has applied the rights-respecting standards of the Supreme Court’s NYSRPA v Bruen decision when considering a challenge to the federal law that prohibits the legal sale of a pistol to adults under 21 year old, rejecting arguments by the law’s defenders that those people can still buy a gun privately or get one from an older family member.
By granting summary judgment in the case, U.S. District Chief Judge Thomas S. Kleeh, a Trump appointee, prohibited the federal government from enforcing the prohibition on sales to 18 to 20-year-olds and his ruling is based on Bruen. As he wrote . . .
The core issue the Court must answer under Bruen remains whether our Nation’s history and tradition contains “analogous” restrictions on the ability of 18-to-20-year-olds to purchase firearms. … Defendants have not presented any evidence of age-based restrictions on the purchase or sale of firearms from before or at the Founding or during the Early Republic. Defendants have likewise failed to offer evidence of similar regulation between then and 1791 or in a relevant timeframe thereafter. For that reason alone, Defendants have failed to meet the burden imposed by Bruen.
You can read the full ruling here. The Second Amendment Foundation was downright giddy . . .
In a 40-page decision, U.S. District Chief Judge Thomas S. Kleeh with the Northern District of West Virginia wrote, “(B)ecause Plaintiffs’ conduct – the purchase of handguns – ‘fall[s] [within] the Second Amendment’s ‘unqualified command’ and the challenged statutes and regulations are not ‘consistent with the Nation’s historic tradition of firearm regulation,’ the Court FINDS 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(b)(1) and (c)(1) facially unconstitutional and as applied to Plaintiffs.”
He enjoined the defendants—in this case the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, ATF Director Steven Dettelbach and Attorney General Merrick Garland from enforcing the provisions “against Plaintiffs and otherwise-qualified 18-to-20-year-olds.”
“This is a huge victory for Second Amendment rights, especially for young adults,” said SAF Executive Director Adam Kraut. “The Biden Justice Department argued that people in this age group were not adults, which was patently ludicrous. The government simply could not defend the constitutionality of the handgun prohibition, and Judge Kleeh’s ruling makes that clear.”
If you’re in that age group and have your eye on something at the local gun shop, you’ll want to act fast. The federal government could — and probably will — choose to appeal the ruling and ask for an order staying the decision while the case is argued further. It may also take some time for NICS background check system to adjust to this new reality, so the window of actual opportunity here could be pretty short.
Still A Long Way To Go
The federal ban is only one of many laws that prohibit young adults from fully exercising their right to keep and bear arms. Even in constitutional carry states, it’s often illegal under state law to carry without a permit until age 21. Additionally, many states won’t issue carry permits at age 18, and there may even be a case for issue at 17 if a young person asserted their status as a member of the unorganized militia. Some states prohibit mere possession until a higher age, such as New Mexico, which prohibits possession of handguns until age 19, even at home or in a vehicle.
All of these clear infringements will probably need to be challenged individually to get them cleared out, but their time will come. Democrat party lawyers and judges are trying to do anything they can to delay each and every one of these cases in hopes that that at least one conservative judge will die or retire and Biden or a Democrat successor will get to reconfigure the court to weaken or reverse Bruen.
So, if you’re a young adult whose rights are limited by laws such as these, consider contacting an organization like the Second Amendment Foundation or the Firearms Policy Coalition to see if they can help you get that changed.