July 16, 2021

In a 2-1 decision dated July 13, 2021, the Fourth Circuit struck down certain provisions of the Gun Control Act (“GCA”) as a violation of the Second Amendment.  At issue in Hirschfeld v. ATF were the federal statutes that prohibit licensed dealers from selling handguns and handgun ammunition to 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds.  It has long been the law that persons 18 and over were legally permitted to purchase rifles and shotguns, but those under 21 were not allowed to legally purchase handguns.

The Fourth Circuit stated that at the Second Amendment’s core is “the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.”  The court unequivocally declared that 18-year-olds possess Second Amendment rights and that “[d]espite the weighty interest in reducing crime and violence, [the Court] refuse[s] to relegate either the Second Amendment or 18- to 20-year-olds to a second-class status.”  The court further held, “Our nation’s most cherished constitutional rights vest no later than 18. And the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms is no different.”

It is important to note that, in light of this decision, there is now a split in the Circuit Courts regarding this issue.  In NRA v. ATF, the Fifth Circuit upheld the GCA ban prohibiting the sale of handguns and handgun ammunition to 18–20-year-olds in 2012.  Given these conflicting rulings, it is unclear how other Circuits may rule on the same or similar issues should they arise.  However, 18­–20-year-olds in the Southeast should soon be able to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

Renzulli Law Firm, LLP will continue to monitor firearm related news and events around the country.  If you have any questions concerning firearms related legislation, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.