Richmond, VA – A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that laws that established a minimum age of 21 for the purchase of handguns were unconstitutional.
A divided three-judge panel on the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond said that not allowing people between the ages of 18 and 20 to buy handguns from licensed dealers violated their Second Amendment rights, CNN reported.
The lawsuit was brought by Natalia Marshall and Tanner Hirschfeld, who were unable to legally buy handguns in Virginia, The Washington Post reported.
Marshall had a protective order against an ex-boyfriend and wanted a gun for protection.
Documents said she had grown up with guns and felt more comfortable buying a gun legally from a licensed dealer so that she could be guaranteed the gun wasn’t used or stolen, The Washington Post reported.
Two members of the three-judge panel agreed with the plaintiffs.
Judge Julius N. Richardson, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, wrote the opinion for the majority, The Washington Post reported.
Richardson said that laws limiting the sale of handguns to those 21 and older relegated “either the Second Amendment or 18- to 20-year-olds to a second-class status,” according to CNN.
“Looking through this historical lens to the text and structure of the Constitution reveals that 18- to 20-year-olds have Second Amendment rights,” the judge wrote. “Virtually every other constitutional right applies whatever the age. And the Second Amendment is no different.”
Richardson’s opinion was joined by former President George W. Bush- appointee Judge G. Steven Agee, CNN reported.
The judges said that laws restricting the sale of guns to adults under 21 were incentivizing young adults to get guns from unlicensed dealers, thereby skipping background checks, The Washington Post reported.
Judge James A. Wynn, Jr. disagreed with his colleagues’ decision.
Wynn was appointed by former President Barack Obama, according to CNN.
In his dissent, he accused the majority of the panel of having caved to politics.
“The majority’s decision to grant the gun lobby a victory in a fight it lost on Capitol Hill more than fifty years ago is not compelled by law,” the dissenting just wrote. “Nor is it consistent with the proper role of the federal judiciary in our democratic system.”
He also disagreed with Richardson and Agee’s assertions that the Second Amendment was being treated as less than other constitutional rights, The Washington Post reported.
“No, the Second Amendment is exceptional not because it is uniquely oppressed or imperiled, but rather because it is singularly capable of causing harm,” Wynn wrote.
Critics called the ruling dangerous and opined that the decision would be quickly reversed, The Washington Post reported.
“We think it’s wrong on the history, wrong in the way it goes about its Second Amendment analysis, and equally wrong for public safety at a time when we’re experiencing an epidemic with gun violence across the country. The last thing we need is for more guns to be in the hands of young people,” Everytown Law Managing Director Eric Tirschwell said.
The ruling will likely be appealed to the full 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, The Washington Post reported.