Federal Court Vacates Ruling on Gun Sales to Buyers Under 21

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit vacated a gun rights ruling from July, 2021  that found unconstitutional a Virginia measure preventing adults under age 21 from buying handguns. After the panel’s ruling, the Justice Department had asked the full court to reconsider the decision. Instead, the court dissolved the ruling because the Virginia woman who initially brought the lawsuit turned 21 before the decision became official, reports the Washington Post. The challenge to the age restrictions was brought by prospective handgun buyer Natalia Marshall, who was unable to purchase a handgun from a federally licensed firearms dealer in Virginia because of her age. Once Marshall turned 21, she was no longer prohibited from buying a handgun, and there was no longer a legal controversy.

In its 2-to-1 decision in July, the court found the minimum age requirement for purchases from federally licensed gun dealers restricts the rights of law-abiding citizens. The majority also expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of age restrictions that they said incentivize young adults to obtain guns from unlicensed dealers and without background checks. In dissent, Judge James A. Wynn Jr. said courts should defer to lawmakers, who imposed the age restrictions more than 50 years ago because of concerns about public safety.

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