Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Court Declares Ban on Firearms Sales to Young Adults from FFLs Unconstitutional


A federal judge in the Northern District of West Virginia recently declared the law prohibiting 18 to 20-year-olds from purchasing handguns from federal firearms licensees (FFLs) unconstitutional. The case, titled Brown v. the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), was initiated in September 2022 by Steven Brown, Benjamin Weekley (both under 21), the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), and the West Virginia Citizens Defense League (WVCDL).

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Under current legislation, individuals under 21 are barred from purchasing handguns from FFLs due to restrictions on undergoing the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for handguns. This ruling comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision, which ended the practice of "means-end scrutiny" and stated that the government can only use the original text, tradition, and history of the Second Amendment to evaluate a law's constitutionality.

Judge Thomas S. Kleeh’s ruling focused on defining "the people" as mentioned in the Second Amendment, concluding that it includes all law-abiding residents aged 18 and above. He noted that the Constitution specifies age requirements for certain positions like President but does not do so for the right to bear arms. The government’s attempt to argue for a different understanding of the "founding era" was dismissed by the judge, who considered the relevant period to be around 1791, the time of the Second Amendment's ratification.

The government's attempt to use the NRA v. Bondi case from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals as a supporting argument was negated by Judge Kleeh. He pointed out that the Bondi decision was vacated following an en banc review, rendering it inapplicable as a precedent.

Additionally, the judge rejected the government's standing argument, which suggested that plaintiffs could still acquire guns through parental gifting, thereby not affecting their ability to possess firearms.

SAF and WVCDL expressed satisfaction with the judgment. SAF leadership emphasized the inconsistency in allowing 18-year-olds to serve in the military with firearms but not permitting them to purchase a handgun. They viewed the decision as a significant win for Second Amendment rights, especially for young adults.

The judge did not find a stay on his decision necessary, meaning the ruling is immediately effective for the plaintiffs and other eligible 18-20-year-olds. However, an appeal and request for an emergency stay by the government is anticipated.

This case marks another legal setback for the ATF, following a series of defeats in court over issues such as bump stocks, pistol braces, forced reset triggers, frames, receivers, and other matters.

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