Federal Judge Rules Banning Gun Sales to 18-20 Year-Olds Unconstitutional

May 12, 2023

A U.S. District Court judge in Virginia has ruled that banning sales of firearms to adults younger than 21 violates the 2nd Amendment and is unconstitutional.

Based in Richmond, Judge Robert Paine of the Eastern District of Virginia wrote in a 71-page ruling that many of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship are granted to 18 year-olds, including the right to vote, military enlistment and jury service. 

“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. 

He added, “Because the statutes and regulations in question are not consistent with our Nation’s history and tradition, they, therefore, cannot stand.”

According to the Giffords Law Center, currently Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Washington and the District of Columbia impose a minimum age requirement of 21.

Nationwide, activities currently not legal for an adult under the age of 21 to undertake include drinking alcohol, renting a car, gambling, obtaining a pilot’s license or going to a nightclub.

Among the plaintiffs in the Virginia case was 20-year-old John Corey Fraser who, after being denied the purchase of a handgun, challenged the constitutionality of the Gun Control Act of 1968 and associated regulations from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Fraser’s attorney said the lawsuit was aimed at “closing a loophole” because 18-20 year-olds can already purchase guns from private sellers in a “completely unregulated” process. 

The judge, in issuing his ruling, repeatedly cited the 2022 Supreme Court ruling New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v Bruen, which was decided 6-3 by the conservative supermajority that a New York requirement, that a person show a special need for self-protection to be allowed to carry concealed outside the home, violated the 14th Amendment.

Since the Bruen ruling, numerous gun laws have been ruled against or at least questioned in courts across the country, including restrictions on  domestic abusers and defendants under felony indictment, as well as a ban on possessing guns with the serial number removed.

Neither the Justice Department nor ATF responded to requests for comment on Judge Payne’s ruling.

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