A federal appellate court has affirmed a lower court’s decision that banning the purchase of handguns by people younger than 21 does not infringe on a person’s constitutional rights.
The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which has appellate jurisdiction over districts in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, made the unanimous decision Thursday. It affects the sale of weapons by federally licensed firearms dealers.
The plaintiffs in the case — the National Rifle Association and three Texans who were not 21 at the time the original lawsuit was filed – argued that the ban violated their Second Amendment rights. They filed suit against Attorney General Eric Holder and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The suit was filed in 2010, but a district judge granted summary judgment for the government in that case, which led to the appellate court’s ruling.
Citing previous case law, Judge Edward Prado wrote that the ban on the sale of all handguns would infringe upon the core of the Second Amendment. But the court concluded that the sale of firearms could be regulated with respect to specific groups.
“At a high level of generality, the present ban is consistent with a longstanding tradition of targeting select groups’ ability to access and to use arms for the sake of public safety,” he wrote. “More specifically, the present ban appears consistent with a longstanding tradition of age- and safety-based restrictions on the ability to access arms.” The court also rejected the plaintiff’s assertion that the ban violated the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment.
The NRA has more than 11,000 members who are affected by the ban, according to court documents. The laws in question have been on the books since 1968, when Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, which also set forth the guidelines by which firearms dealers can operate.
Joining Prado in the decision was Catharina Haynes, a fellow appointee of President George W. Bush, and Carolyn King, who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter.