Federal Judge Strikes Down Federal Age Limit on Gun Purchases

Federal Judge Strikes Down Federal Age Limit on Gun Purchases

Jonathan Turley

U.S. Senior District Judge Robert Payne has delivered another blow to the Biden Administration’s effort to limit gun rights. In a 65-page decision,  Judge Payne ruled that the Second Amendment protects people 18-20 who were barred under the regulations from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Federal licensed dealers were previously told that they could not sell to buyers below the age of 21. The case is Fraser v. BATFE, U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82432(Eastern District, Va. May 10, 2023).

The Biden Administration argued that 18- to 20-year-olds are not part of “the people” protected under the Second Amendment. It argued that the “age of majority” was 21 at the founding and that the Framers did not intend to protect the rights of citizens below the age of 21 for the purposes of gun purchases.

It is an argument with sweeping implications. If the Second Amendment does not protect those under 21, what about other rights like those under the First Amendment?

Moreover, when age was a key exclusion, the Framers would state so, including the right to hold office.

Historically, guns have been part of American culture with many introduced to hunting at young ages. Moreover, historical sites note that “the average age of soldiers who served in the Continental Army was 18 to 20 years old, some as young as 14.” Some child soldiers like Daniel Granger were only 13 and presumably could buy the weapons that they used against the British.

While acknowledging that the word “purchase” does not appear in the Second Amendment, Judge Payne noted:

“Commonsense and logic tell us that, unless one is a maker of guns, the right to “keep”/have a gun necessarily means that one must purchase it, steal it, be given it by another, or find one that another has lost. That, of course, includes a handgun which was the subject “arms” in Heller. 554 U.S. at 628. Thus, given its ordinary, commonsense, and logical meaning the right to “keep arms” (the right to “have”) of necessity includes the right, inter alia, to purchase arms. That then puts an end to the textual inquiry with the conclusion that the conduct at issue is protected by the plain text of the Second Amendment.”

This issue is already creating a split among the courts. While there are no direct appellate rulings on the issue, the Fifth, Seventh, and Eleventh circuits have discussed the question. Nat’l Rifle Ass’n., 700 F.3d at 203-04Horsley v. Trame, 808 F.3d 1126, 1131 (7th Cir. 2015)Nat’l Rifle Assoc. v. Bondi, 61 F.4th 1317, 1324 (11th Cir. 2023). The Fourth and the Ninth Circuits have held that 18-to-20-year-olds are part of “the people” protected by the Second Amendment. Hirschfeld v. ATF, 5 F.4th 407 (4th Cir. 2021)vacated by 14 F.4th 322 (4th Cir. 2021)Jones v. Bonta, 34 F.4th 704 (9th Cir. 2022)opinion vacated on reh’g47 F.4th 1124 (9th Cir. 2022). District courts have split on the issue.

The Biden Administration is pushing a series of collateral limits on gun possessions and purchases into the appellate courts. The age limit cases are now becoming ripe for review by the Supreme Court, which is likely to approach the Administration’s sweeping argument on “the age of majority” for the Second Amendment with skepticism.


(TLB) published  this article from Jonathan Turley with our appreciation for this perspective

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Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

Header featured image (edited) credit: Biden/ABC News screen shot

Emphasis added by  (TLB) editors



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2 Comments on Federal Judge Strikes Down Federal Age Limit on Gun Purchases


  2. The Govt trusted me, at 17 years old, to carry a rifle and kill on their behest while in the Marine Corps.

    If gun laws prohibit gun sales to those under 20, then you must disarm our military under the same age.

    Plus, it black youth that does nearly all gun murders, and no one on the media has the guts to just recite the FBI UCR stats showing they commit 86% of ALL gun murders, and latino’s are second. NOT whites. And no, Latino’s are not “white”.

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