A lawsuit was filed in federal court in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month challenging the constitutionality of a federal law that restricts people under the age of 21 from buying handguns from federally licensed dealers.
The plaintiffs, 20-year-old Tanner Hirschfeld and 18-year old Natalia Marshall, were turned away by local firearm dealers when trying to purchase handguns because they were underage.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits the sale of handguns by a federally licensed dealer to citizens under 21 but does not prohibit those under 21 from carrying handguns or buying them from a private dealer.
Elliot Harding, the attorney from Charlottesville who filed the suit, told The Daily Progress that the law conflicts with the Constitution.
“The federal ban relegates young adults to an unregulated, limited market of private, personal transactions for handguns,” he said. “The suit seeks to preserve equal protection of the fundamental liberty to defend oneself, as guaranteed by the Second and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States.”
Hirschfeld said he was turned away from buying a .357 magnum revolver from a pawn shop; he planned to use the firearm for self-defense and sport-shooting. Marshall was turned away from buying a pistol from a sporting goods store, a firearm which she planned to use for self-defense because she claims she works in a remote area and was previously in an abusive relationship that led her to file a protection order.
“Personally, I would like a handgun for self-defense and home defense; however, I would like to purchase it through the safest and most legal way because I don’t have a lot of friends out there who are able to sell me one,” Hirschfeld said in an interview with The Daily Wire. “I'd rather buy one that is new or professionally examined to ensure it is working properly.”
“If people are going to buy guns, they should do it in a safe way which is through dealers, but the law encourages people to buy them without having background checks because it only allows those under 21 to buy them in private sales,” Hirschfeld added.
The suit names the previous U.S. Attorney General (prior to his resignation), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the ATF’s acting director, Thomas Brandon.
The defendants have until November 26 to reply to the complaint.
Virginia law does prohibit those under 21 from obtaining a concealed carry permit, but does allow 18 to 20-year-olds to open carry handguns, according to The Daily Progress.
In 2012, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Houston ruled against the NRA in a suit that challenged the Gun Control Act of 1968 on the grounds that it violates the Second Amendment and the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment. The unanimous three-judge panel ruled that the 1968 law was to curb violent crime and that the nation’s founders, courts from the 19th century, and commentators didn’t believe the right to bear arms was violated by restricting specific groups.
“Congress was focused on a particular problem: young persons under 21, who are immature and prone to violence, easily accessing handguns,” Judge Edward Prado wrote for the panel according to Reuters. “The present ban appears consistent with a longstanding tradition of age- and safety-based restrictions on the ability to access arms.”
Hirschfeld said that if he is required to sign up for Selective Service at 18 years old, “there is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to buy a handgun for self-defense.”
Hirschfeld also said he hopes the Supreme Court takes on this case, especially with the court leaning more conservatively since the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“I think it is time for the Supreme Court to have more Second Amendment jurisprudence as gun rights become more of issue Congress focuses on,” he said. “I think there is a strong possibility that the court will protect my rights as someone under 21.”
Hirschfeld and Marshall also started a crowd-funded campaign to help pay for the costs of litigation and so far have raised more than $2,800.