At the end of October, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a September 2011 ruling by District Judge Sam Cummings stating that 18-20 year-olds could not purchase handguns. However, this ruling does not prevent 18-20 year-olds from carrying, owning or firing handguns.
“A unanimous three-judge panel said Congress, in a law dating from 1968, adopted the sales ban to help curb violent crime. It also said that the nation’s founders and 19th-century courts and commentators believed that disarming specific groups did not trample on the right to bear arms.”
Judge Edward Prado wrote on behalf of the three judge panel, “Congress was focused on a particular problem: young persons under 21, who are immature and prone to violence, easily accessing handguns, mainly from licensed dealers.”
Based on this ruling, at least 3 federal judges believe that if 18-20 year-olds can buy handguns from licensed dealers that violent crime will over-run America’s streets.
Understandably, the gun community and the National Rifle Association (NRA) are disappointed. The 2nd Amendment does not require a citizen to be 21 to exercise their rights. “We are disappointed,” said David Thompson, who represents the NRA. “The ruling is inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s opinion in Heller, and we are considering all of our appellate options.”
If an 18 year old is responsible enough to own and fire a handgun, why can’t he/she purchase one? America sends her 18 year-olds to the front lines with high-powered firearms, yet these same “kids” can’t lawfully purchase a handgun when they get home?
This recent ruling in a Houston federal court that no one under the age of 21 may purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer has several states searching for creative ways to maneuver around the law. Virginia, for instance, allows anyone of at least 18 years of age the right to make a private gun purchase with no regulation or oversight. Similarly, in Texas, one can legally will a firearm to his progeny without the grantee having to register the gun in his name. As the federal government continues working towards gun ownership restriction, states and municipalities are continually finding ways to circumvent the system and ensure the Constitution is upheld.
While the Constitution has been legally altered on multiple occasions in the past, and while the judiciary has interpreted various clauses to mean various things, the Bill of Rights has been generally considered to be a sacrosanct document. Lest we forget, the Constitution would never have been ratified to begin with had it not been for the addition of the Bill of Rights.
The ratified and authenticated version of the Second Amendment, in that sacrosanct Bill of Rights, plainly states that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” There is no further qualifier. “The people” refers to the citizenry, which the founders considered to be free white men and those who were civically enabled through social engagement, such as employment, church membership and town hall participation. This would signify what today would be considered a “legal adult.”
At no point does the Second Amendment attempt to restrict the right of gun ownership to certain members of the citizenry. In the larger sense, at no point does the Constitution designate which legal adults are to be afforded specific rights and privileges. The government was set up under the driving principle that “all men (were) created equal.” The trend over the past century has been to expand the concept of that equality by tendering rights to additional groups thus bringing them into the citizenry. To restrict fundamental American rights to only a certain age group reverses this trend and violates the founding principle of equality. Gun ownership restriction may, therefore, be considered discrimination.
Analysis of various state gun laws illustrates just how deep public opinion on this matter is. Virginia’s status as a high-density military area would pose a staunch irony were her resident veterans disallowed their Second Amendment privileges after a year or more in combat. Imagine for a moment a vet returning from Kandahar, only to be killed in a robbery because he wasn’t allowed to carry a gun in his own country. Texas’ apparent hands-off policy is a potential reaction to the danger of criminal activity near the border. Many other states take the self-defense standpoint of Texas when applying their own gun laws as well.