At the age of 18, an American citizen can join the military get issued an M-16 and have their legs blown off by an IED in Iraq — "for freedom." However, if that 18-year-old wants to buy a handgun in the same country that sends them off to have their legs blown off, they are banned from doing so — because "freedom." All that could soon be changing now, however, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has ruled that laws preventing 18-20-year-olds from buying guns are unconstitutional.
In a split decision, the three-judge panel ruled on Tuesday that the minimum age requirement of 21 to buy a gun in the land of the free restricts the rights of law-abiding citizens by drawing an arbitrary and unjustified line.
In the case, according to court documents, the plaintiffs sought an injunction and a declaratory judgment pointing out that several federal laws and regulations that prevent federally licensed gun dealers from selling handguns to any 18-, 19-, or 20-year-old violate the Second Amendment. According to the plaintiffs:
We first find that 18-year-olds possess Second Amendment rights. They enjoy almost every other constitutional right, and they were required at the time of the Founding to serve in the militia and furnish their own weapons. We then ask, as our precedent requires, whether the government has met its burden to justify its infringement of those rights under the appropriate level of scrutiny. To justify this restriction, Congress used disproportionate crime rates to craft over inclusive laws that restrict the rights of overwhelmingly law-abiding citizens. And in doing so, Congress focused on purchases from licensed dealers without establishing those dealers as the source of the guns 18- to 20-year-olds use to commit crimes.
The court agreed.
“Despite the weighty interest in reducing crime and violence, we refuse to relegate either the Second Amendment or 18-to-20-year-olds to a second-class status,” wrote Judge Julius N. Richardson.
The court found that 18-year-olds possess a Second Amendment right to gun ownership and noted that they were “required at the time of the Founding to serve in the militia and furnish their own weapons,” wrote Richardson.
Indeed, they were. Not only is it unconstitutional to prevent 18-year-olds from buying a handgun to defend themselves, but it is extremely hypocritical. The idea of sending an 18-year-old off to war for a country, giving him or her a gun to defend themselves in battle but refusing to allow that same person to defend themselves at home is sheer nonsense.
What's more, that same 18-year-old can vote on laws which affect the second amendment but cannot practice that right at all.
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Not everyone agrees, however, and the dissenting judge thinks that the right to self defense is the sole doing of the gun lobby.
“The majority’s decision to grant the gun lobby a victory in a fight it lost on Capitol Hill more than fifty years ago is not compelled by law. Nor is it consistent with the proper role of the federal judiciary in our democratic system,” Judge James A. Wynn Jr. Courts wrote.
According to the Washington Post, Wynn rejected as “simply surreal” concerns about relegating the Second Amendment to second-class status.
“No, the Second Amendment is exceptional not because it is uniquely oppressed or imperiled, but rather because it is singularly capable of causing harm,” wrote Wynn.
Wynn is backed by gun control advocates who point out that 18-to-20-year-olds commit gun homicides at a rate four times higher than adults 21 and older do. It is rather irresponsible, however, that they would use these statistics to advocate gun control given that 18-to-20-year-olds cannot legally buy a handgun — therefore proving that the law doesn't work.
Like all gun control measures, laws that prevent 18-to-20-year-olds from buying guns only stop law abiding citizens from defending themselves and do nothing to prevent criminals from obtaining weapons.
This is a fact that the court pointed out as well, noting that allowing law abiding 18-to-20-year-olds to purchase guns in a legal market will enhance public safety.
Attorney Elliott Harding, who represented the plaintiffs in case pointed out that the ruling bolsters safety by allowing young people to purchase handguns in a more regulated market with background checks.
While this is a win for gun rights, it is likely only temporary as the DOJ has already promised to knock it down.