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.”
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.
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.