Five lines down from the top of Page 24 in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that struck down the prohibition on selling handguns to young adults is a reminder that Constitutional rights aren’t just for those over 21 years of age.
Judge Julius N. Richardson, a Donald Trump appointee, observed, “Looking through this historical lens to the text and structure of the Constitution reveals that 18- to 20-year-olds have Second Amendment rights. Virtually every other constitutional right applies whatever the age. And the Second Amendment is no different.”
Judge Richardson goes on to note that when the Constitution was ratified, “The militia laws in force at the time…required those 18 and older to join the militia and bring their own arms. While some historical restrictions existed, none support finding that 18-year-olds lack rights under the Second Amendment.”
The case was brought by now-19-year-old Natalia Marshall, who had been “forced to obtain a protective order against her abusive ex-boyfriend who, since the issuance of the order, had been arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm and controlled substances. He was released on bail but never came to court, leading to the issuance of a capias for his arrest,” the ruling noted.
Marshall was 18 when she wanted to purchase a handgun from a licensed dealer for personal protection. A second plaintiff, Tanner Hirschfield, has turned 21 and the ruling said his complaint is moot.
Richardson’s majority opinion, which was joined by Judge G. Steven Agee—a George W. Bush appointee—will likely be appealed, either to an en banc appeals court panel or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to NBC News, the dissent by Judge James A. Wynn—a Barack Obama appointee—said “Tuesday’s ruling applies only in the five states of the 4th Circuit – Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and North and South Carolina.”
NBC also stated, “If it stands, the decision would mean 18- to 20-year-olds could buy a handgun from a licensed dealer but not cigarettes or alcohol.”
There is no mention in the Bill of Rights about cigarettes or alcohol, but there is a Second Amendment protection for the right to keep and bear arms.
And Judge Richardson wrote on Page 78 of the ruling, “The irony does not escape us that, under the government’s reasoning, the same 18- to 20-year-old men and women we depend on to protect us in the armed forces and who have since our Founding been trusted with the most sophisticated weaponry should nonetheless be prevented from purchasing a handgun from a federally licensed dealer for their own protection at home. We refuse to accept this conclusion. These men and women who, historically, have served either voluntarily or by conscription may not be read out of ‘the people’ in the Second Amendment.”
If the case does go to the Supreme Court and result in a pro-rights decision, it could upset gun control laws in just about every state. In the meantime, the ruling is providing lots of debate on social media.