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Federal Judge Declares Unconstitutional Handgun Sales Restrictions for 18-20 Year-Olds

todayMay 11, 2023 6

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Federal Judge Declares Unconstitutional Handgun Sales Restrictions for 18-20 Year-Olds


In a groundbreaking ruling, a federal judge in Virginia has deemed unconstitutional the laws and regulations that prohibit federally licensed firearms dealers from selling handguns to individuals between the ages of 18 and 20. U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne, citing the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, argued that these measures violated the Second Amendment. The ruling has sparked significant debate, as it challenges a longstanding legal framework that restricted handgun sales to this age group. While supporters of the decision argue for expanded gun rights, opponents express concerns about the potential risks associated with younger individuals possessing firearms. As the case is expected to face appeals and further legal scrutiny, the implications of this ruling on public safety and constitutional rights remain subjects of intense discussion.

The Court’s Ruling and its Implications

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Virginia, U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne, issued a ruling declaring unconstitutional the federal laws and regulations that prohibit federally licensed firearms dealers from selling handguns to 18- to 20-year-olds. In his 71-page opinion, Judge Payne argued that these restrictions were not consistent with the nation’s history and tradition and therefore could not stand. The decision challenges the existing legal framework that has prevented licensed dealers from selling handguns to individuals in this age group for decades.


While the ruling potentially allows 18- to 20-year-olds to purchase handguns from licensed dealers, the Justice Department is expected to appeal the decision and request a stay to prevent its immediate enforcement. This means that the ruling’s impact remains uncertain until higher courts weigh in on the case.

The Plaintiff’s Argument and Responses

The plaintiff in the case, John Corey Fraser, filed a lawsuit challenging the Gun Control Act of 1968 and federal regulations that restrict handgun sales to individuals aged 21 and older. Fraser, who was 20 years old at the time, had attempted to purchase a Glock 19x handgun from a federally licensed dealer but was denied. Fraser’s attorney, Elliott M. Harding, expressed satisfaction with the court’s ruling, anticipating that it would be affirmed in due course. However, opponents of the decision highlight potential risks associated with younger individuals having access to firearms.

Organizations such as the Giffords Law Center and Everytown Law, which filed amicus briefs in support of the age restrictions, argue that scientific evidence demonstrates that teenagers face unique dangers and exhibit greater impulsivity regarding firearms. They contend that the federal laws prohibiting handgun sales to individuals under 21 are essential for preventing gun violence and should be upheld.

Second Amendment Interpretation and Historical Analysis

Judge Payne’s ruling raises questions regarding the interpretation of the Second Amendment and the historical analysis employed by the court. Citing the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, which expanded the right to bear arms, Payne argued that the age of majority at the nation’s founding does not necessarily establish the appropriate measure for the reach of the Second Amendment.


However, critics of the ruling point out that Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the Bruen majority, indicated that federal law prohibits possession of handguns by those under 18 years old and restricts sales to individuals under 21. They argue that this ruling does not expand the categories of people who may legally possess firearms but rather emphasizes the historical context surrounding age restrictions.

Debates on Public Safety and Constitutional Rights

The ruling has reignited debates on the balance between public safety and constitutional rights. Proponents of the decision argue that it upholds Second Amendment rights for all law-ab

 Debates on Public Safety and Constitutional Rights

abiding adults, including those between the ages of 18 and 20. They contend that responsible individuals in this age group should not be denied their constitutional right to bear arms based solely on their age. They argue that if 18- to 20-year-olds can serve in the military, vote, and face legal consequences as adults, they should also have the ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

Opponents of the ruling, however, express concerns about the potential risks associated with younger individuals having access to handguns. They argue that scientific evidence supports the notion that teenagers are more impulsive and face elevated dangers when it comes to firearms. They fear that allowing 18- to 20-year-olds to purchase handguns could increase the likelihood of gun-related accidents, suicides, or acts of violence.


Janet Carter, senior director of issues and appeals at Everytown Law, highlights the fact that guns are the leading cause of death for U.S. kids and teens. She points to research indicating that 18- to 20-year-olds commit gun homicides at triple the rate of adults aged 21 and older. Carter contends that the federal law prohibiting handgun sales to individuals under 21 is both an essential tool for preventing gun violence and constitutionally sound.

The ruling also raises questions about the inconsistencies in age restrictions across different constitutional rights. While the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments provide full protections to individuals aged 18 to 20, the Second Amendment has historically been subject to varying interpretations. Critics argue that excluding this age group from the Second Amendment’s protections would impose limitations that do not exist with other constitutional guarantees.


Furthermore, concerns are raised about the potential erosion of the existing legal framework for regulating firearms. The restrictions on handgun sales to 18- to 20-year-olds by federally licensed dealers have been in place for decades. Removing these restrictions could have broader implications for other gun control measures and may necessitate a reevaluation of existing regulations.

The recent federal court ruling declaring unconstitutional the laws and regulations that prevent licensed firearms dealers from selling handguns to 18- to 20-year-olds has sparked intense debates regarding public safety and constitutional rights. While proponents argue that the decision upholds the Second Amendment rights of responsible adults, opponents express concerns about the potential risks associated with younger individuals having access to firearms. The ruling challenges a longstanding legal framework and may have broader implications for gun control measures. As the case is likely to face appeals and further legal scrutiny, the ultimate impact of the ruling remains uncertain. The balance between public safety and constitutional rights continues to be a contentious issue, and the ongoing discussions surrounding this ruling will shape the future trajectory of gun regulations in the United States.


Written by: RadioAdmin

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