Federal Judge Strikes Down Ban on Handgun Sales to Certain Americans

A federal judge overturned a ban on licensed firearms dealers selling pistols to adults under 21, saying the rule is unconstitutional.

Judge Thomas Kleeh, in his ruling on Dec. 1, said that based on his interpretation of the text of the First and Fourth Amendments, found that the Second Amendment does not exclude 18-to-20-year-olds, meaning the court “can discern no reason to read an implicit age restriction into the Second Amendment’s plain text either.”

“The Court concludes 18-to-20-year old law abiding citizens are part of 'the people' who the Second Amendment protects,” wrote Judge Kleeh, who is the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. “Plaintiffs themselves and the activity which federal law and regulation currently prevent them from undertaking are covered under the Second Amendment’s umbrella of constitutional freedoms.”

He added that the plaintiffs' capacity to purchase handguns falls under the Second Amendment's “unqualified command” and that “challenged statutes and regulations are not ‘consistent with the Nation’s historic tradition of firearm regulation'” and that the rule barring the plaintiffs from purchasing handguns was “facially unconstitutional and as applied to Plaintiffs.”

The judge's ruling also drew heavily from the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last year in the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. vs. Bruen that required gun control laws to have a basis in historical tradition. The top court in its order struck down a New York law and determined it to be unconstitutional, affirming an individual's right to carry a pistol in public under the Second Amendment.

His order stipulated that under the Bruen ruling, ‘‘To justify its regulation, the government may not simply posit that the regulation promotes an important interest.”