A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled Tuesday that the federal ban against 18-20-year-olds buying handguns is unconstitutional.
The Majority Opinion by Judge Julius Richardson–joined by Bush 43-appointee Judge Stephen Agree–looked at militia laws in American history and the Founding Fathers’ views that an armed populace made an armed militia possible, allowing the latter to repel a tyrannical government, should the need arise:
So while the individual right of self-defense was “the central component” of the Second Amendment, the civic purpose “was codified” based on the fear that a tyrannical government would eliminate the civically minded militia. Both reflected the pre-existing right of self-defense that the Founders valued as the core purpose of the state. “In the Founders’ world, individual self protection and community defense were not wholly separate spheres.”
Moreover, Richardson highlighted the time at the Founding of the nation, noting, “Every militia law near the time of ratification required 18-year-olds to be part of the militia and bring their own arms.”
Around the time the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791, Congress began debating invoking its power under the Militia Clauses to better organize the militias for federal use in emergencies. The effort was pushed by Secretary of War Henry Knox, who argued to Congress that while the “military age has generally commenced at sixteen,” the age for the federal select militia should be set at 18 because “the youth of sixteen do not commonly attain such a degree of robust strength as to enable them to sustain without injury the hardships incident to the field.”
Richardson observes, “Founding-era militia laws provide strong evidence that 18-year-olds were covered by the Second Amendment.”
Later in the Majority Opinion, Richard notes that legislation and court rulings cannot change what the Founding Fathers intended via the Second Amendment: “But while Congress—or judges—may have struck a different balance long after ratification, that role is foreclosed to us by the balance that the Founders chose. We cannot now second-guess or undermine their choice. History makes clear that 18- to 20-year-olds were understood to fall under the Second Amendment’s protections.”
Ultimately, Richardson and Agee voted to vacate a district court’s ruling to dismiss the suit against the handgun purchase ban, remanding it for further proceedings.
The Case is
Hirschfeld v. BATF, No. 19-2250, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Content created by AWR Hawkins
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