Judge Stays Earlier Decision on Young Adult Handgun Sales Ban

by Tommy Grant

We recently reported how a court in West Virginia ruled that the federal government’s ban on the sale of handguns to Americans aged 18 to 20 years old is unconstitutional. Now, that same judge has stayed the ruling pending an appeal to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. In the case Brown v. ATF, Judge Thomas S. Klesh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia declared the law unconstitutional and granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment. At the time, it seemed his reasoning was quite sound.

“The core issue the Court must answer under Bruen remains whether our Nation’s history and tradition contains ‘analogous’ restrictions on the ability of 18- to 20-year-olds to purchase firearms,” Judge Klesh wrote in that ruvling. “Defendants have not presented any evidence of age-based restrictions on the purchase or sale of firearms from before or at the Founding or during the Early Republic. Defendants have likewise failed to offer evidence of similar regulation between then and 1791 or in a relevant timeframe thereafter. For that reason alone, Defendants have failed to meet the burden imposed by Bruen.”

Unfortunately, only a week later Judge Klesh stayed the ruling, despite stating that he believes the plaintiffs will eventually succeed on the merits of the case. 

“While the Court stands behind its reasoning and determination in its Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court finds that the first factor weighs in favor of staying the injunction,” Judge Klesh wrote. “Several federal district courts have evaluated the constitutionality of 922(b)(1)’s age ban with differing results. This lawsuit poses the substantial and novel question ‘of the proper definition of ‘the people’ in the Second Amendment and whether 18-to-21-year-olds fall within in it. In well-reasoned and thoughtful opinions, district courts have landed on both sides of that debate.’ Because Courts are split in their assessment of this question, reasonable minds can and have varied. Accordingly, the first factor weighs in favor of staying the injunction pending appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.”


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The latest setback is a substantial one for young adults seeking to have their Second Amendment rights recognized. It’s likely that will never happen until the matter finds its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.


About the Author

Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for nearly 25 years. 


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