To NRA's Dismay, Appeals Court Upholds Federal Ruling that 18-Year-Olds Can't Buy Guns

| by Dabney Bailey
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The US Court of Appeals upheld a federal law that prohibits persons under the age of 18 from being able to purchase a handgun.

The National Rifle Association led the charge against the federal law, suing the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and Attorney General Eric Holder on the claim that the restriction violated the Constitutional rights of those between the ages of 18 and 21.

The NRA didn’t have a very strong position out of the gate. In Texas (of all places) a judge ruled that the federal law did not violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms or the Fifth Amendment right to equal protection. The US Court of Appeals agreed, effectively burying the NRA’s hopes of helping 18-year-olds buy handguns.

As it stands, persons between the ages of 18 and 21 are still legally able to own handguns, they just can’t go out on their own and purchase one; they can acquire firearms through parents or guardians.

U.S. Circuit Judge Edward C. Prado wrote in the 41-page ruling that the federal law solved a pervasive problem without altogether abolishing the right to bear arms among 18-year-olds. He wrote, “Congress could have sought to prohibit all persons under 21 from possessing handguns – or all guns, for that matter. But Congress deliberately adopted a calibrated, compromise approach.”

The decision reflects a US Census Bureau statistic that found that 18- to 21-year-olds are disproportionately prone to violent crimes. The study also found that individuals between the ages of 18 and 20 "were more likely to use a firearm than adults 21 and over."

Prado added, “Congress designed its scheme to solve a particular problem: violent crime associated with the trafficking of handguns from federal firearms licensees to young adults.”

The NRA did have a few judges in its corner. US Circuit Judge Edith H. Jones argued that there were “far-reaching” implications for allowing Congress to treat a certain class of citizens differently just because “Congress considers the class ‘irresponsible.’”

When hard facts clash with alleged inequality and Constitutional grey areas, which should come out on top? For now, at least, the US legal system seems to prefer statistics and unavoidable realities over arguments about Constitutional equality.

Source: USA Today