Two University of Virginia students plan to appeal after the dismissal of their lawsuit against the U.S. government that claimed a federal law restricting sales of handguns to people younger than 21 is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit, filed in October 2018 on behalf of then-20-year old Tanner Hirschfeld and then-18-year-old Natalia Marshall, asked the Western District Court of Virginia to declare the gun act unconstitutional and to stop enforcement of handgun and ammunition age restrictions.
Last week, Senior U.S. District Judge Glen E. Conrad ruled that the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights weren’t violated by a 1968 law that makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase a handgun.
According to Conrad’s memorandum opinion, the challenged laws were valid as applied to the plaintiffs and fell outside the scope of Second Amendment protections. Additionally, he did not find the application of the federal laws violated the plaintiffs’ 14th Amendment rights.
“The prospective buyers allege — and the court has no reason to doubt — that they are law-abiding, responsible, and capable adults, rendering the challenged laws over-inclusive,” Conrad wrote. “But that does not mean that the challenged laws violate the prospective buyers’ rights to equal protection.”
Elliott Harding, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said in a written statement that the students were disappointed but not surprised by the court’s ruling. The challenged laws have been in effect for a long time and there was little previous precedent for a challenge, he wrote.
“We plan on appealing this decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and hope it will reverse course in favor of these young adults’ fundamental liberties,” he wrote.
However, young adults cannot purchase a gun or ammunition from federally licensed dealers who are required to perform background checks on buyers.
According to the lawsuit, Hirschfeld wanted to purchase a handgun for self-defense and sport-shooting and had received training on the proper and safe operation and storage of firearms.
Hirschfeld attempted to buy a .357 magnum revolver from a local pawn shop but was denied because he was too young, the lawsuit states.
Marshall’s effort to purchase a semi-automatic pistol from a local sporting goods store met the same roadblock. She wanted to purchase the pistol for protection as she works in a remote area and had been in an abusive relationship in which she filed for a protection order.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits licensed dealers from selling handguns or ammunition for those weapons to persons younger than 21. The law also prohibits gun sales by a licensed dealer to people who are under indictment or convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year of incarceration.
The suit named U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the ATF’s acting director, Thomas Brandon, as defendants.