The federal ban on licensed dealers selling pistols to adults under 21 is unconstitutional, according to a ruling issued on Friday.
U.S. District Chief Judge Thomas S. Kleeh said the sales ban violates the Second Amendment. He determined there isn’t a historical tradition of barring adults from buying pistols, as required for a gun restriction to be constitutional under the Supreme Court’s latest precedent. He blocked enforcement of the law against the plaintiffs in the case and all 18-to-20-year-olds nationwide.
“[B]ecause Plaintiffs’ conduct – the purchase of handguns – ‘fall[s] [within] the Second Amendment’s ‘unqualified command’ and the challenged statutes and regulations are not ‘consistent with the Nation’s historic tradition of firearm regulation,'” Judge Kleeh wrote in Brown v. ATF, “the Court FINDS 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(b)(1) and (c)(1) facially unconstitutional and as applied to Plaintiffs.”
The ruling is the latest fallout from the 2022 New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen decision, which struck down that state’s gun-carry law and established a new test for gun laws. Numerous federal and state restrictions have been found unconstitutional since then, with many still working their way through appeals that could ultimately end up at the High Court.
Friday’s ruling allows 18-t0-20-year-olds to buy guns directly from licensed gun dealers for the first time in decades. The order goes into effect immediately but can be appealed by the Department of Justice. The department did not respond to a request for comment.
The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and West Virginia Citizens Defense League joined two individual plaintiffs in bringing the case. The gun-rights groups celebrated the ruling as a win for Americans, especially younger adults.
“The Biden Justice Department argued that people in this age group were not adults, which was patently ludicrous,” Adam Kraut, SAF’s executive vice president, said in a statement. “The government simply could not defend the constitutionality of the handgun prohibition, and Judge Kleeh’s ruling makes that clear.”
Judge Kleeh, a Donald Trump appointee, found there was no record of any gun sales to 18-to-20-year-olds being banned during the Founding Era.
“Defendants have not presented any evidence of age-based restrictions on the purchase or sale of firearms from before or at the Founding or during the Early Republic,” he wrote. “Defendants have likewise failed to offer evidence of similar regulation between then and 1791 or in a relevant timeframe thereafter. For that reason alone, Defendants have failed to meet the burden imposed by Bruen.”