Washington state joined a handful of other states that ban anyone under 21 from buying a semi-automatic assault rifle. Voters passed a sweeping firearms measure in November that has drawn a court challenge from gun-rights advocates, the Associated Press reports. The ballot initiative seeks to curb gun violence by toughening background checks for people buying assault rifles, increasing the age limit to buy those firearms and requiring the safe storage of all guns. Only the age-limit portion of the measure goes into effect on Jan. 1; the rest becomes law on July 1. Fifty-nine percent of Washington voters approved Initiative 1639.
“Starting today, young adults between the ages of 18 to 20 will have their rights to purchase semi-automatic rifles stripped away,” said Dave Workman of the Bellevue, Wa.-based Second Amendment Foundation. The new federal lawsuit says the measure violates the Second and 14th amendments of the Constitution as well as gun sellers’ rights under the Commerce Clause. The full measure, when it goes into effect later this year, will expand the background check process to ensure that vetting for rifle purchases is the same as for buying pistols. People in Washington who buy long guns are checked by the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS.) In most states, you must be 18 to buy an assault rifle. But Republican-dominant Florida passed a law after a school shooting to increase the age limit to 21. Nikolas Cruz was 18 when he legally bought the assault rifle he used to kill 17 people in a Parkland, Fl., high school last February. Four other states — Hawaii, Illinois, Vermont and New York — also prohibit anyone under 21 from buying all firearms.