Court Declares Handgun Ban For Young Adults Unconstitutional

A new and important Second Amendment decision was issued Friday that will resonate with Americans who value robust protection of the Second Amendment. Judge Thomas S. Kleeh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia struck down the federal prohibition against handgun sales to individuals aged 18 to 20, finding the law amounts to an illegal infringement on the right to keep and bear arms. 

The ruling underscores the value of the constitutional rights of young adults in finding that federal prohibition runs against America’s historical traditions regarding firearm regulation.

The case against the Biden administration’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was brought by two individual plaintiffs, the Second Amendment Foundation and the West Virginia Citizens Defense League. The individual plaintiffs, law-abiding young adults, were denied the right to purchase handguns due to their age, giving them personal standing to challenge the federal ban that is based only on their age.

Judge Kleeh, appointed to the federal bench by President Donald Trump, rigorously applied the Supreme Court’s precedent from the 2022 landmark Bruen decision. He emphasized that for a firearm regulation to be constitutional, it must align with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation. In examining the evidence presented by the ATF, he found a complete lack of American historical precedent for prohibiting young adults from purchasing handguns.

This decision supports the inherent right of young adults, who are otherwise qualified, to purchase firearms, implying that blanket prohibitions not based on objective disqualifying factors must not stand.

Critics of the decision argue that a blanket age restriction is necessary for public safety. However, the court found that the ATF’s attempts to rely on historical regulations from the 19th century failed to demonstrate a longstanding national tradition surrounding the right to keep and bear arms.  

This ruling is a direct challenge to the Biden administration’s aggressive stance on gun control. While the decision underscores the legal principle that age alone should not be a barrier to exercising constitutional rights, it serves in a larger context to give notice to the federal government that lower federal courts are taking the precedents recently established by the Supreme Court seriously.