4th Circuit Appeals Decision for the 2nd Amendment by Tom Reynolds
The 4th District US Circuit Court of Appeals, in Hirschfield and Marshall vs BATFE et al, ruled that 18 years old have 2nd Amendment rights, including the right to buy a firearm. The summary of the decision by Judge Richardson explains it well. The emphasis (underlining) is added by SCOPE to emphasize important points.
“When do constitutional rights vest? At 18 or 21? 16 or 25? Why not 13 or 33? In the law, a line must sometimes be drawn. But there must be a reason why constitutional rights cannot be enjoyed until a certain age. Our nation’s most cherished constitutional rights vest no later than 18. And the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms is no different.
Plaintiffs seek an injunction and a declaratory judgment that several federal laws and regulations that prevent federally licensed gun dealers from selling handguns to any 18-, 19-, or 20-year-old violate the Second Amendment. We first find that 18-year-olds possess Second Amendment rights. They enjoy almost every other constitutional right, and they were required at the time of the Founding to serve in the militia and furnish their own weapons. We then ask, as our precedent requires, whether the government has met its burden to justify its infringement of those rights under the appropriate level of scrutiny. To justify this restriction, Congress used disproportionate crime rates to craft over inclusive laws that restrict the rights of overwhelmingly law-abiding citizens. And in doing so, Congress focused on purchases from licensed dealers without establishing those dealers as the source of the guns 18- to 20-year-olds use to commit crimes. So we hold that the challenged federal laws and regulations are unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. Despite the weighty interest in reducing crime and violence, we refuse to relegate either the Second Amendment or 18- to 20-year-olds to a second-class status.
The following is the background on the case, taken directly from the judgment. It reflects a common story that we often use to justify private ownership of firearms.
“Prospective handgun buyers sued the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives seeking an injunction and a declaratory judgment that federal statutes prohibiting Federal Firearm Licensed Dealers from selling handguns and handgun ammunition to 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds (and the federal regulations implementing those statutes) violate the Second Amendment.
Nineteen-year-old Natalia Marshall had good reason to seek protection. She 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. Along with the threat from her ex-boyfriend, Marshall works as an equestrian trainer, often finding herself in remote rural areas where she interacts with unfamiliar people. Having grown up training with guns, she believes that a handgun’s ease of carrying, training, and use makes it the most effective tool for her protection from these and other risks. But because Marshall was 18 when she tried to buy a handgun, a federal law prevented her from buying from a licensed dealer who would perform a background check to verify that she was not a felon or other prohibited person. She preferred using a licensed dealer because they tend to have a wider supply, a good reputation, and a guarantee…She is now 19 and remains unable to buy a handgun from a federally licensed dealer for self-defense.”
The 4th Circuit Court hears appeals from the nine federal district courts in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Its decision applies to all federal courts in its district. It does not apply to the other eleven circuit courts in the United States but its decision may influence the decisions in those courts.
The Feds remaining option is to appeal this to the Supreme Court. Since they are on the taxpayer’s “dime”, the cost of an appeal is no object. The Supreme Court has the option of reviewing it or not.