On the heels of the Fourth Circuit’s awful anti-gun opinion in the Walker case, comes an opinion today which holds that 18-20 year olds have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment. Federal law prohibits the sale of handguns and handgun ammunition to 18-20 year olds by licensed dealers. In an opinion written by Judge Richardson (appointed by Trump), the Court held that “Eighteen- to twenty-year-olds have Second Amendment rights, and the challenged laws impermissibly burden those rights.”
There are many things that minors and even those under 21 cannot do. See Ent. Merchs. Ass’n, 564 U.S. at 836–37 (Thomas, J., dissenting) (explaining that minors cannot drive for hire or drive a school bus, buy tobacco, play bingo for money, or execute a will). But none of those restrictions implicate constitutional rights, so states have great leeway to regulate those activities under their general police powers. And while the Court has “recognized that the State has somewhat broader authority to regulate the activities of children than of adults,” that does not mean that children necessarily have different rights than adults. Danforth, 428 U.S. at 74. Often they have the same rights as adults, but the states’ interests are stronger with regard to minors so restrictions may more easily pass constitutional scrutiny. Ent. Merchs. Ass’n, 564 U.S. at 794–95. So it is hard to conclude that 18- to 20-year-olds have no Second Amendment rights when almost every other constitutional right affords them protection. This conclusion becomes inescapable when we consider the history.
This is the Fourth Circuit, so WV, VA, MD, NC and SC. The government could still petition for rehearing en banc, as well as petition for certiorari to the US Supreme Court. So it’s not over yet….