Federal Court Strikes Down Age-Based Ban on Handgun Purchases as ‘Facially Unconstitutional’

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A federal district court judge in West Virginia has delivered a significant ruling, stating that the federal law restricting handgun sales to individuals aged 18 to 20 is “facially unconstitutional.”

The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) brought the case forward, resulting in a summary judgment.

U.S. District Chief Judge Thomas S. Kleeh, presiding over the Northern District of West Virginia, actively issued a 40-page decision.

He wrote, “(B)ecause Plaintiffs’ conduct – the purchase of handguns – ‘fall[s] [within] the Second Amendment’s ‘unqualified command’ and the challenged statutes and regulations are not ‘consistent with the Nation’s historic tradition of firearm regulation,’ the Court FINDS 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(b)(1) and (c)(1) facially unconstitutional and as applied to Plaintiffs.”

Judge Kleeh has enjoined the defendants — the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, ATF Director Steven Dettelbach, and Attorney General Merrick Garland — from enforcing these provisions against the Plaintiffs and other qualified individuals in the 18-to-20-year age group.

SEE ALSO: Major Federal Gun Ban Introduced: GOSAFE Act!

Adam Kraut, the SAF Executive Director, celebrated the decision: “This is a huge victory for Second Amendment rights, especially for young adults.”

He criticized the Biden Justice Department’s stance, which suggested that individuals in this age group were not fully adults, calling it “patently ludicrous.”

Kraut’s statement underscored that the government failed to defend the constitutionality of the handgun prohibition, a point clarified by Judge Kleeh’s ruling.

Alan M. Gottlieb, SAF founder and Executive Vice President, highlighted the lack of historical evidence for the ban: “There was never any historical evidence supporting this arbitrary ban on the purchase and ownership of handguns by young adults.”

Gottlieb reminded that historically, young adults were deemed mature enough to serve in the militia and the military and to take on other adult responsibilities. He expressed his delight at the judge’s ruling.

The case, filed in September 2022, saw SAF join forces with the West Virginia Citizens Defense League and individuals Steven Robert Brown and Benjamin Weekly.

They received representation from John H. Bryan, an attorney from Union, W.Va., and SAF’s Adam Kraut, a practicing attorney from Westtown, Pa.

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  • Scott December 9, 2023, 2:41 am

    It’s about time someone in the judicial branch had some clarity about guns. You can’t legislate sanity.

  • jim December 8, 2023, 9:29 am

    Nobody here is going to like this, but, I don’t think 18-year-olds should own handguns, unless co-signed by a parent. I also don’t think they should be allowed to vote. And, I don’t think they should be drafted into the military, if/when there is a draft, though volunteering at 18 is okay.

    • Ricky Johnson December 8, 2023, 10:06 am

      At what age should ownership of handguns and the draft eligible begin? Just curious, seems you left quite a bit on the table.

      • Jim December 8, 2023, 10:32 am

        Yes, I did leave that open, hoping to hear input from others. Thank you for asking the question.

        I don’t place “ownership” and “purchase” in the same category. To purchase a handgun, I think 21 is soon enough. To “own” a handgun, either via a co-signed purchase from a parent, only. or a gifted ownership, from a parent only, is fine. I respect parental judgment above federal judgment when it comes to gun ownership, in most cases.

        In 1967, at age 17, I worked in a “surplus” store that also sold both used military and new sporting firearms. One day, a young black man, 18, came in and wanted to buy a semi-auto .22. He was legal, and I sold it to him. The next day, his father came in with the gun, demanding we take it back. His son was having trouble with some people, and the father believed his son bought the gun for “protection”, or worse. A perfect case of the parent knowing far more about what was right than the government. This personal experience has helped define many of my feelings about gun ownership and age requirements.

        As for the draft, if enacted, I think 20 is sufficient. In severe war-time situations, 18 should be allowed. I see, know, or work with too many kids in the age 17-20 range who simply do not have the judgment or sense of responsibility to fight in a war, as I did at 19. Again, as is currently the case, a parent could sign off for service at a younger age.

        It is interesting that the government will bow to the wishes of the parent to allow a younger man to fight for his country, but will not bow to the parent for the younger man to purchase a gun. Another self-serving rule enacted by our government.

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