The Fourth Circuit Rules That 18-20 Year-Olds Can Buy Handguns Too


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals released an opinion in Hirshfeld v. BATF on July 13 that turned heads in the gun community. Judge Richardson wrote from the Fourth Circuit and took aim at the arbitrary rule requiring Americans to be 21 to purchase a handgun and ammunition intended for handguns. 

One of the plaintiffs in this case, Natalia Marshall, had a protective order against her abusive ex-boyfriend who had been arrested for a number of different crimes, including unlawful possession of a firearm. When she tried to purchase a handgun for self-defense from a licensed dealer, she was rejected because she was not 21. 

Interestingly enough, the majority drew remarkably similar parallels to the landmark Supreme Court case Craig v. Boren. This particular decision ruled that an Oklahoma law that prohibited selling males under the age of 21 and females under the age of 18 low-alcohol beer created unconstitutional classifications. Essentially, Judge Richardson compares the two cases by showing that while 18, 19, and 20-year-old males are disproportionately more likely to drive drunk than their female counterparts, the number driving drunk is incredibly small. In nearly the same situation, while 18, 19, and 20 year-olds are substantially more likely to commit crimes than 21 year-olds, the number of those committing the crimes is still incredibly low.

The last six months have been full of both good and bad Circuit Court interpretations of the Second Amendment. From the Ninth Circuit to the Fourth and just about every other circuit in between, there’s been some sort of groundbreaking Second Amendment decision.

To this day, a bright-eyed 18-year-old can walk into any gun shop in the nation (under federal law) and purchase a box of .50 BMG but not a box of .22 shorts. The age restriction on such products comes from the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. This is the same era and same lawmakers who brought us the War on Drugs and the many tyrannical policies that came with it which we are still fighting today.

For decades, proponents of the Second Amendment have criticized this arbitrary federal regulation that requires handgun purchasers or purchasers of ammunition to be shot out of a handgun to be 21 years of age. In order to combat this, some states like West Virginia have enacted laws allowing residents 18-20 years old to obtain a concealed carry permit. While this does not authorize these permit holders to purchase the firearm or the ammunition, it allows them to conceal the gun.

Nowhere in the original text of the Second Amendment is there an age requirement similar to the 14th and 26th Amendments. Despite this, Congress has taken it upon themselves to arbitrarily place age restrictions on certain firearms. In fact, many parallels can be drawn between the fight to lower the voting age to 18 and the current fight to lower the arbitrary age to purchase handguns and handgun ammunition to 18. Voting rights activists passed laws in states allowing 18-20 year-olds to vote in state-level elections. The entire movement to lower the voting age to 18 was centered around the slogan “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote.” With the passage of the 26th Amendment, there is currently no constitutional right that either vests or fully vests after age 18. In reality, the vast majority of the constitutional rights we all enjoy have no age requirement.

While the Fourth Circuit’s decision likely won’t change anything and may not even be heard on appeal, the Supreme Court is bound to take up more cases regarding the Second Amendment. Some existing cases (the Ninth Circuit’s opinion saying there is no right to carry a firearm outside the home comes to mind) are so awful that the Supreme Court would be foolish not to grant cert. Add in the ATF’s pitiful attempt at rulemaking, and this next Supreme Court session will be one for the Second Amendment history books.

Taylor Giles is a political science and strategic communications major at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia. In addition to being an outspoken critic of politics, Taylor is an outdoor and shooting enthusiast.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Taylor Giles

West Virginia University

Taylor Giles is a political science and strategic communications major at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia. In addition to being an outspoken critic of politics, Taylor is an outdoor and shooting enthusiast.

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