Federal appeals court rules ban on handgun sales to those under 21 unconstitutional

The decision by the three-judge panel is expected to be appealed and heard by a full appeals court.

Updated: July 14, 2021 - 4:03pm

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A U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled the federal law barring handgun purchases from adults under age 21 is unconstitutional and violates the Second Amendment. 

A divided three-judge panel made the ruling Tuesday in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Richmond, Va. 

"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," Judge Julius N. Richardson, a Trump appointee, wrote in the majority opinion. 

According to The Washington Post, age restrictions put in place in 1968 limited firearms dealers from selling handguns to anyone under 21, despite them being allowed to buy other guns. However, Tuesday's decision is likely to be appealed to a full court.

"Looking through this historical lens to the text and structure of the Constitution reveals that 18- to 20-year-olds have Second Amendment rights," Richardson wrote. "Virtually every other constitutional right applies whatever the age. And the Second Amendment is no different."

Obama appointed Judge James A. Wynn Jr. wrote in a dissenting opinion that the panel granted the gun lobby "a victory in a fight it lost on Capitol Hill more than 50 years ago," and said the ruling was not "consistent with the proper role of the federal judiciary in our democratic system."

The majority opinion also added that "the rights of more than 99% of a group cannot be restricted because a fraction of 1% commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime."

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