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Tipsheet

Federal Judge Strikes Down Virginia's Age Limit on Purchasing Handguns

AP Photo/Marina Riker, File

Molon labe. The nation is facing serious domestic and foreign policy crises, making the environment ripe for liberals to pass anti-gun legislation without anyone knowing. The fight to keep our Second Amendment rights is an ongoing struggle. It’s also grounded mainly in lawyer’s work, moving gradually. It took a decade for the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments about whether we have the right to carry guns in public for self-defense. Yes, we can declare we already had that right, but the high court never addressed it until New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen in 2022. If you look through past dockets, many gun rights cases like Bruen where a writ of certiorari was denied; Wollard v. Gallagher (2013) and Drake v. Jerejian (2014) are prime examples. 

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We live in a society where the pace of change is meant to be slow for our protection. So, now that Bruen has decided on this remaining question regarding gun rights expect another lengthy court battle over carry rights, may issue-shall issue protocols, and pushback from blue states who will not go willingly with the Supreme Court’s decision. To start, we have a federal judge in Virginia striking down the age limit for purchasing handguns, which has been set at 21 for years (via NYT): 

A judge in Virginia has struck down federal laws blocking handgun sales to buyers over 18 and under 21, in a ruling that might augur the rollback of regulation prompted by the Supreme Court’s sweeping expansion of gun rights last year. 

Judge Robert E. Payne of Federal District Court in Richmond, Va., ruled on Wednesday that statutes and regulations put in place over the past few decades to enforce age requirements on sales of handguns, like the semiautomatic Glock-style pistols, by federally licensed weapons dealers were “not consistent with our nation’s history and tradition” and therefore could not stand. 

A citizen’s Second Amendment rights do not “vest at age 21,” he added. 

In his 71-page ruling, Judge Payne, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, repeatedly cited the majority opinion in the landmark case New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, which struck down a New York State law that put tight limits on carrying guns outside the home. 

The Justice Department is expected to appeal the ruling in Virginia, which, should it stand, would have a significant, if limited, impact on firearms purchases. The decision, which would not affect state age limits, will take effect when the judge issues his final order, which is expected in the next few weeks. 

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Judge Payne is right; our constitutional right to own firearms does not “vest at age 21.” After the Parkland shooting in Florida in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, some states, like Florida and Vermont, passed anti-gun laws that increased the age to purchase all firearms to 21. It’s always been 18 to buy a long gun and 21 for a handgun. At least some class of firearm would be afforded to those upon turning the age of 18. It’s not shocking the Justice Department is going to appeal the ruling. While a small victory, it should remind us that as we deal with Joe Biden’s incompetence, high inflation, a proxy war in Ukraine spiraling out of control, a looming real estate crisis, a shaky banking system, and the debt ceiling now becoming a ticking time bomb—the fight to keep our guns and expand those rights remains critical and difficult.

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