U.S. Justice Lifts Ban on Sale of Guns to Youth Under 21
Sylvie Claire / May 13, 2023
The decision represents a major setback for gun control advocates as they try to convince Congress to ban younger people from acquiring assault rifles
A federal judge has struck down a law that has prohibited licensed gunsmiths from selling guns to people under the age of 21 for more than half a century. The decision, dated Wednesday, May 10, represents a major setback for advocates of better gun control as they try to convince Congress to ban younger people from acquiring assault rifles.
These AR-15 type weapons, at the heart of many bloodbaths, were not common in 1968 when lawmakers passed a law to prohibit gunsmiths from selling handguns to 18 to 21 year olds, on the grounds that they commit more crimes than older ones.
Since then, young Americans can buy revolvers and pistols at private sales, at gun shows or through their parents, but not at federally licensed businesses, where they can buy all kinds of guns.
The 1968 law has been the subject of several legal attacks since its passage but had held up until then. On Wednesday, federal judge Robert Payne, who sits in Virginia, ruled that a June decision by the U.S. Supreme Court changed that. The conservative-majority high court ruled that the Constitution protects the right of Americans to carry a gun outside the home and ruled that the only possible restrictions must be in keeping with the country's history.
For Judge Payne, that is not the case here: "The law and its implementing orders are inconsistent with our Nation's history and traditions, and therefore cannot stand," he wrote in his 71-page decision. "Since time immemorial, young people have behaved like... young people. The social problem of their impetuosity and haste predates the Founding Fathers," who did not adopt rules to prevent them from acquiring weapons, he added.
His decision, which is expected to be appealed and could end up in the Supreme Court, was strongly criticized by Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization that advocates for more gun restrictions. "Young people between the ages of 18 and 20 commit homicides with firearms at three times the rate of adults over 21," said Janet Carter in a statement, adding that the ruling "will undoubtedly put lives at risk.
In 2021, guns caused more than 47,000 deaths in the United States, including 26,000 suicides, according to the authoritative Gun Violence Archive.