Whenever legislation or a case is brought before a judge about guns, tension mounts between anti and pro-gun contingents. Politically, Republicans favor the unequivocal right to bear arms, whereas most Democrats desire stricter laws. In the July 13, 2021 ruling, a higher court declaring a law banning 18-20 year-olds from buying handguns as unconstitutional drew out the same responses.
But the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution does not outline who is old enough to be part of a well-regulated Militia, nor does it indicate what types of arms a person has the right to bear. Instead, the Founding Fathers drew up Amendment II clearly indicating their intent:
A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
It took eight-and-a-half months for the justices to render their decision on the handgun ban case before the three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. Two of the three judges ruled in favor of one of the two plaintiffs; one was determined to be moot as he reached 21 and was no longer affected by the law.
Judges Julius N. Richardson and G. Steven Agee ruled the ban was unconstitutional. However, Judge James A. Winn, Jr. hotly contested the court’s decision. Both CNN and USA Today point out the decision of the first two judges was consistent with the Republican presidents who appointed them — Donald Trump and George W. Bush, respectively, as Justice Winn Jr., who was appointed by President Barack Obama, a Democrat.
Richardson wrote the decision that at times seemed sarcastic. In it, he asked, “When do constitutional rights vest? At 18 or 21? 16 or 25? Why not 13 or 33?” He explains the “historical lens” of the Constitution’s words and structure are consistent with 18-20-year-olds having Second Amendment rights. Practically every other right in the Constitution applies to whatever “the age.” Therefore, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s rights were violated when she was denied the ability to purchase a handgun.
On the other hand, Winn, Jr., accused his colleagues of pandering to the pro-gun contingent. He said the gun lobby’s fight was lost on Capitol Hill over 50 years ago. Moreover, he argued “this ruling was not ‘consistent with the proper role of the federal judiciary in our Democratic system'” according to USA Today.
Interestingly, Americans of both parties own guns, the majority of whom would not be willing to forego their rights to bear arms under the Constitution’s Second Amendment. In the past year, the majority of handguns sold by licensed dealers were purchased by women and Democrats.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
CNN: Handgun sale ban to under 21-year-olds is unconstitutional, appeals court says; by Tierney Sneed
USA Today: Law banning handgun sales to Americans under 21 violates Second Amendment, court rules; by John Fritze
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Gilbert Mercier’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Robert Nelson’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License