California Gun Ban Unconstitutional

A 9th Circuit Court panel overturned a California ban on selling semiautomatic weapons to adults under 21.

USA News
Jonathan Good
Leans Left
Stephen Webber
Leans Right

Court Strikes Down Gun Sales Ban

Ban Struck Down. In a 2-1 decision on Wednesday, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel said a California law prohibiting the sale of semiautomatic weapons to adults under 21 is unconstitutional. The court sided with the Firearms Policy Coalition, which argued the ban infringed on 18 to 20-year-olds’ Second Amendment rights. California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) will review the decision and could appeal.

California Gun Laws. California passed a law in 2018 that requires a hunting license for adults under 21 — who are not in the military or law enforcement — to purchase rifles or shotguns. In April 2019, a 19-year-old bought a semiautomatic rifle with a hunting license and shot four people at a synagogue in San Diego County. After that event, the Legislature acted to address what they viewed as a loophole, enacting the ban on selling semiautomatic rifles to anyone under 21.

Lawsuit. Matthew Jones, a 20-year-old at the time, sued the state, arguing that he wanted a gun but did not want to obtain a hunting license. While his legal team sued before the under-age ban, they later amended his lawsuit to challenge it. 

9th Circuit Panel and Response

Opinion. Judge Ryan Nelson wrote the majority opinion in the case, joined by Judge Kenneth Lee. Former President Trump appointed both to the court during his tenure. Nelson said the California law amounts to “an almost total ban” on these firearms for young adults. He continued that the decision reaffirms that the Constitution still protects the right of young adults to keep and bear arms. Judge Sidney Stein, a Bill Clinton appointee, dissented. However, they upheld the hunting license requirement, saying it increased public safety through “sensible firearm control.” 

Bills’ Author Reacts. State Senator Anthony Portantino (D), who wrote both laws, said he was disappointed in the court’s decision to strike down the ban but was glad it upheld the hunting license requirement. Portantino continued, “I remain committed to keeping deadly weapons out of the wrong hands.”

Left Narrative

California has long served as a model state for enacting reasonable gun restrictions that ensure public safety without infringing on people’s Second Amendment rights. This Trump-packed panel has wrongly overturned a commonsense regulation keeping deadly weapons out of the hands of those who are not developmentally prepared to handle them — a rationale the court has no problem with for alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis consumption.

Left-Lean Narrative

Right-Lean Narrative

Right Narrative

18-year-olds can vote, fight for their country, and are subject to other constitutional rights, yet California is attempting to limit their right to bear arms. This law has done nothing to prevent gun violence in the streets of San Diego or any other city in California. The court made the right decision to strike down this unconstitutional law.

Questions & Answers

Reading Comprehension

Have your students take a reading comprehension quiz to see how well they understood the article and different opinions.

Launch Activity

Discussion Questions

  1. Would you have repealed the gun ban? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think the gun ban violated the Constitution? Why or why not?
  3. Was raising the gun age to 21 a reasonable measure following the San Diego shooting?
  4. Would a prohibition on guns for people under 21 prevent gun violence? Why or why not?
  5. Do you believe the Supreme Court should examine this case?

Current Events in this story

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Accompanying Content

CNN (Online News)
Court strikes down California ban on semiautomatic gun sales to those under 21

CNN covers the lawsuit that led to this panel overturning the California gun ban.

May 11, 2022
Fox News
California under-21 gun sales ban ruled unconstitutional by US appeals court

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, ruled that a hunting license requirement for purchases of rifles or shotguns by adults under 21 who are not in the military or law enforcement was reasonable.

May 11, 2022
FOX 11 Los Angeles
Court rules California’s under-21 gun sales ban unconstitutional

A U.S. appeals court ruled Wednesday that California’s ban on the sale of semiautomatic weapons to adults under 21 is unconstitutional.

May 12, 2022

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