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2nd Amendment does not kick in at 21, says 4th Circuit Court of Appeals

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A win for the 2nd Amendment.

TANNER HIRSCHFELD; NATALIA MARSHALL, Plaintiffs – Appellants,

v.

BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, FIREARMS, TOBACCO & EXPLOSIVES; MARVIN RICHARDSON, Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; MERRICK B. GARLAND, Attorney General,

Defendants – Appellees. ——————————-

BRADY; GIFFORDS LAW CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE; EVERYTOWN FOR GUN SAFETY SUPPORT FUND,

Amici Supporting Appellees.

RICHARDSON, Circuit Judge:
When do constitutional rights vest? At 18 or 21? 16 or 25? Why not 13 or 33? In the law, a line must sometimes be drawn. But there must be a reason why constitutional rights cannot be enjoyed until a certain age. Our nation’s most cherished constitutional rights vest no later than 18. And the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms is no different.

Plaintiffs seek an injunction and a declaratory judgment 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. 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. So we hold that the challenged federal laws and regulations are unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. 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.

Background

Prospective handgun buyers sued the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives seeking an injunction and a declaratory judgment that federal statutes prohibiting Federal Firearm Licensed Dealers from selling handguns and handgun ammunition to 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds (and the federal regulations implementing those statutes) violate the Second Amendment. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(b)(1), (c)(1); 27 C.F.R. §§ 478.99(b)(1), 478.96(b), 478.124(a).1

Nineteen-year-old Natalia Marshall had good reason to seek protection. She had been forced to obtain a protective order against her abusive ex-boyfriend who, since the issuance of the order, had been arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm and controlled substances. He was released on bail but never came to court, leading to the issuance of a capias for his arrest. Along with the threat from her ex-boyfriend, Marshall works as an equestrian trainer, often finding herself in remote rural areas where she interacts with unfamiliar people. Having grown up training with guns, she believes that a handgun’s ease of carrying, training, and use makes it the most effective tool for her protection from these and other risks. But because Marshall was 18 when she tried to buy a handgun, a federal law prevented her from buying from a licensed dealer who would perform a background check to verify that she was not a felon or other prohibited person. She preferred using a licensed dealer because they tend to have a wider supply, a good reputation, and a guarantee that the guns have not been used, stolen, or tampered with. She is now 19 and remains unable to buy a handgun from a federally licensed dealer for self-defense.

The other Plaintiff, Tanner Hirschfeld, tried to buy a handgun from a licensed dealer and was denied because he was only 20. But he has since turned 21 and is no longer affected by these laws. His claims are therefore moot. See Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190, 192 (1976). Marshall, however, is not yet 21, so this appeal may still proceed. For the full Court Decision and dissent VISIT HERE

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