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Federal Judge Rules Handgun Sales to 18-20 Year Olds Constitutional

John “Corey” Frasier had his eye on a Glock 19x. As an American and a freshly minted adult, Corey was excited to buy his first handgun. Unfortunately, when the day came to make the purchase, Corey’s federal firearms licensed dealer poured cold water on his plans.

It turns out that a federal law passed in 1968, the Federal Gun Control Act, made it illegal for any federally licensed dealer to sell a handgun to anyone aged 18-20. This law doesn’t apply to any other type of gun, and it didn’t prevent Corey from owning a handgun. It only prevented him, and any other 18-20 year old American, from purchasing a handgun.

Needless to say, Corey was livid! How could the same government who would issue him a M4 to go and fight for his country deny him the right to enjoy the Constitutional protections he would be asked to preserve?

A Man Stands Up

In light of the Bruen decision and other recent Supreme Court decisions that have broadened Second Amendment rights, Corey made the brave and selfless decision to fight the injustice he saw in this law and in the restrictions on a fundamental human right, the right to self-defense.

Along with two other litigants who wished to buy a handgun, but hadn’t in light of Corey’s experience, he brought suit against the federal government.

It was only the second time that the Bruen Test, as established by the Supreme Court, was used to resolve a federal gun rights case. Earlier this year, a federal court shot down a law that prevented gun ownership by those with domestic violence history.

The Bruen Test asks a court to evaluate the merits of contemporary gun laws in light of its consistency with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation, especially as the it applied in the late 18th century at the time these laws were being established.

On May 11 of this year, Federal Judge for Virginia’s eastern district Robert Payne agreed with Corey and the other plaintiffs that the provision of the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 which prohibited the sale of handguns to persons aged 18-20 fails the Bruen Test and is, therefore, unconstitutional.

History And Culture Were Not On The Government’s Side

In his ruling, Judge Payne went to great pains to apply the Bruen Test. He evaluated US gun laws as well as laws around military conscription and service. Almost in a nod to Corey’s outrage at being asked to kill for a government that does not trust him to own a handgun, Judge Payne noted that at the time the Second Amendment was ratified, military service was restricted to those not younger than 16-18. In fact, Judge Payne could find no historic analogy for the 1968 ban. Judge Payne further broadened his interpretation by expanding the issue in this case to Constitutional Rights more generally writing, “…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.”

Where Do We Go From Here?

While Corey and his co-litigants are rightly thrilled with the conclusion of their case, this is not the final word on the issue of this federal law.

Three other federal courts have also ruled on this issue but have failed to find agreement. Generally, the Supreme Court is asked to step in when the district courts can’t agree. That will surely be the case here.

This also comes at a time when several states have passed or are attempting to pass laws to further restrict the Constitutional rights of 18-20 year olds, mainly by attempting to expand restrictions on purchases of guns to include semi-automatic long guns.

These laws, along with restrictive provisions of the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968, likely face a buzzsaw at the Supreme Court who will most certainly apply the Bruen Test to any gun cases that come before them, whether they come from historic injustices or entirely new ones.

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