WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the federal law banning handgun sales by licensed dealers to anyone under 21 is unconstitutional.
A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Virginia, voted 2-1 to declare the law invalid. "Our nation's most cherished constitutional rights vest no later than 18. And the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms is no different," the majority opinion said.
The ruling, which is sure to be appealed, was a victory for a Virginia woman, Natalia Marshall. She wanted to buy a handgun to protect herself from her abusive ex-boyfriend and to defend herself in remote rural areas where she works with horses. When she was turned down by a licensed firearms dealer because she was 18, she sued to challenge the law.
"We first find that 18-year-olds possess Second Amendment rights," Judge Julius Richardson wrote. "They enjoy almost every other constitutional right, and they were required at the time of the Founding to serve in the militia and furnish their own weapons."