Appeals court dissolves July ruling on handgun sales to those under 21

"It is too late to revive this case. So it must be dismissed as moot," wrote one of the panel judges

Updated: September 23, 2021 - 8:50am

An Appeals panel for the 4th Circuit court in Virginia on Wednesday threw out a gun rights ruling from July that said a law that prevents adults younger than 21 from purchasing hand guns is unconstitutional.

The Richmond panel unanimously ruled that the case was moot because the case's plaintiff turned 21 before the court's decision became official. 

The 1968 Gun Control Act prevents federally licensed gun dealers from selling handguns to individuals under 21, though the same rule does not apply to long guns. Some exceptions apply, but not for cases of general gun ownership. 

In July, the three-judge panel ruled that the law violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms, but the result was dissolved Wednesday because the plaintiff, now-21-year-old Natalia Marshall, no longer has a legally recognized interest in the case's outcome. 

"Despite efforts to add parties and reframe her claimed injuries, it is too late to revive this case. So it must be dismissed as moot," wrote Judge Julius N. Richardson for the court.

Marshall initially filed the suit several years ago when she wanted to purchase a handgun to defend herself against an abusive ex-boyfriend and other potential threats. She was denied the purchase due to her age. 

In the July decision, a 2-to-1 ruling, the panel found that the minimum age requirement for purchases from federally licensed dealers restricts the rights of law-abiding Americans. The panel additionally expressed concern that age restrictions prevented young adults from purchasing handguns, instead turning to unlicensed dealers. 

"It’s unfortunate that the government will evade the repercussions of the court’s thorough ruling simply because the nature of the laws at issue allow them to escape final review through our lengthy litigation process," said the attorney for Marshall, adding "these laws are going to continue to be challenged."