Federal judge strikes down as unconstitutional the federal ban on handgun purchases by adults 18-20

December 2, 2023
by
Ben Marquis

President Joe Biden appears to have never seen a gun control measure he doesn't want to enforce against the American people, but he now has one less anti-gun law in his arsenal against the Second Amendment.

A federal judge in West Virginia just struck down the federal prohibition against the lawful purchase of handguns by adults under the age of 21, Breitbart reported.

The judge, citing multiple relevant precedents at all judicial levels, determined that adults aged 18-20 are covered by the Second Amendment's protection of the pre-existing "right to keep and bear arms" and any law that infringes upon that right is unconstitutional and enjoined the federal government from enforcing them.

Adults aged 18-20 and purchasing firearms are both covered by the Second Amendment

In a 40-page ruling issued on Friday, West Virginia Chief District Judge Thomas Kleeh, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, sided with two individual adults under the age of 21 and two pro-gun rights organizations in their challenge against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

At issue in the case of Brown v. ATF are two federal statutes -- 18 USC Sec. 922(b)(1) and 922(c)(1) -- that both serve to prevent the lawful sale of handguns, defined as "any firearm other than a shotgun or a rifle," to anyone under the age of 21, which necessarily precludes adults aged 18-20 who are otherwise qualified to purchase a shotgun or rifle.

The judge first determined that the two individual plaintiffs, and by extension the supportive organizations, had standing to sue given that, as adults over the age of 18, they were part of "the people" whose rights are protected by the Second Amendment but are nonetheless "infringed" or harmed by the federal statutes that block their ability to lawfully purchase a handgun.

He further asserted that "common sense" and prior precedents show that the act of lawfully purchasing a handgun is necessarily covered by implication as a prerequisite to the protected right to "keep and bear arms."

"Although the Second Amendment does not expressly protect the right to 'purchase' firearms, that right must exist by implication if the right to 'keep and bear arms' is to have its full meaning and effect," Kleeh wrote. "'Commonsense and logic tell us that, unless one is a maker of guns, the right to 'keep'/have a gun necessarily means that one must purchase it, steal it, be given it by another, or find one that another has lost.'"

No historical tradition of banning handguns for young adults

After establishing that adults aged 18-20 are covered by the Second Amendment's protections, Judge Kleeh turned to the "historical traditions" test set by the Supreme Court's 2022 Bruen decision, and found the federal government to be lacking in terms of any sort of analogous laws barring that cohort from purchasing firearms in our nation's early history.

In fact, if anything, the nation's early laws and historical traditions, which generally include the period between the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791 until the post-Civil War Reconstruction era of the 1860s, strongly suggest that any adult over the age of 18 was expected to purchase or possess their own firearm and associated ammunition in case militia service was necessary.

"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," Kleeh wrote. "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."

"In summary, because 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," the judge concluded in his summary judgment to end the case, though the government is likely to appeal.

A "huge victory" for the Second Amendment rights of young adults

The Second Amendment Foundation, which was initially part of the Brown v. ATF case, celebrated the court's decision as a "huge victory for Second Amendment rights." SAF Executive Director Adam Kraut said, "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."

"There was never any historical evidence supporting this arbitrary ban on the purchase and ownership of handguns by young adults," SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb said. "As we maintained all along, history goes in the opposite direction. At that age historically, young adults were considered mature enough to serve in the militia, the military, and take on other responsibilities. We’re delighted with the judge’s ruling."

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