The Ninth Circuit Judicial Circuit scraps California’s under-21 gun laws
A federal appeals court one-sided with gun rights activists on Wednesday and struck down a California law that would keep firearms away from young adults under the age of 21.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that what it called California’s “near-total ban on semi-automatic” rifles for adults under the age of 21 constitutes a “heavy burden on the core Second Amendment law of home self-defense.”
US Circle Judges Ryan Nelson and Kenneth K Lee – both donald trump Appointments – Decided to partially reverse the District Court decision that allowed two California statutes to remain in effect.
California law restricts the sale of most firearms to persons under the age of 21, but creates an exception for the sale of long guns to young adults who 1) have a hunting license; 2) are peace officers, federal law enforcement officers, or carry firearms for work; or 3) are active-duty or honorably discharged military personnel. While handguns have been banned for those under 21 in the Golden State for years, stricter age limits for long guns were enacted in 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
California also prohibits centerfire semi-automatic rifles for anyone under the age of 21 with exceptions for police or military troops but not for those with a hunting license.
The gun advocacy group, the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), has challenged the laws in California and has similar lawsuits pending in other states. FPC brought the case on behalf of Matthew Jonesa young adult from San Diego who wanted to buy a gun without first obtaining a hunting license.
The district court ruled that California’s restrictions were constitutionally acceptable, noting the long history of people under the age of 21 being treated as minors with fewer rights than adults.
In the 55-page opinion on the circuit court reversal, Nelson began the majority opinion by praising the past of young patriots:
America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army. Today we reaffirm that our Constitution still protects the right that made its sacrifice possible: the right of young adults to own and bear arms.
Nelson went on to write extensively about the history of colonial militias, which generally included males as young as 16. The panel combined colonial history with 19th- and 20th-century history regarding the age of majority and concluded that the constitution grants young adults the right to hold and bear arms.
“Because that right includes the right to purchase guns,” Nelson wrote, “both California statutes encumber conduct under the Second Amendment.”
The panel noted that long gun regulations are subject to rigorous scrutiny, while the ban on semi-automatic rifles is subject to intermediate scrutiny. Nelson argued, “It’s one thing to say that young adults must take a course and obtain a hunting license before acquiring certain firearms,” but that young adults’ commitment to becoming police or military personnel is “not at all exceptional.” and that amounts to “a blanket ban on everyone except police officers and military personnel.”
Judge Nelson called California’s gun laws “a serious burden on the core Second Amendment right to self-defense at home.” He commented that young adults are already being prevented from buying “the quintessential self-defense weapon,” referring to handguns.
“[T]its ban now prevents them from buying semi-automatic rifles, leaving only shotguns,” he continued, criticizing California for only allowing its young adults access to “a self-defense weapon that is not ideal or even viable in many scenarios.” “.
The two-judge majority applied the requisite scrutiny to each of California’s statutes, finding that the state’s asserted interest in maintaining public safety was not a wholly unconvincing justification for interfering with Second Amendment rights.
“Although public safety is important, firearms were also dangerous in 1791 when the Second Amendment was ratified, and the government also had an interest in promoting public safety at the time,” Nelson wrote.
The court upheld the long gun provision, noting that while it was “neither narrowly tailored nor the least restrictive means” of achieving the state’s objective, it constituted “reasonable firearms control” and could stand an interim review on that basis.
With respect to the more stringent semi-automatic rifle rule, however, the court found that California law would not stand up to rigorous scrutiny—but also found that even applying the lesser intermediate test, the rule would fail that test either. The problem, according to the panel, is that California law “manages so much more behavior than is necessary to achieve its objective” that it “is unlikely to adequately align with California’s objectives.”
Judge Lee penned a six-page affirmation praising his colleague’s “excellent opinion” and warning that “California’s legal position has no logical stopping point and would ultimately undermine the fundamental rights enumerated in our Constitution.”
In dissent was US District Judge Judge Sidney H Steina bill clinton Appointment that is due to sit at the Court of Appeal.
Judge Stein wrote a lengthy (if only partial) dissent, agreeing with the majority on long gun ordinances but disagreeing on semi-automatic rifles. Stein said none of the regulations constituted a categorical ban.
For context, Stein pointed to the 2019 shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California, which was carried out by a 19-year-old with a semi-automatic rifle. Ultimately, Stein concluded that “California’s goal of promoting public safety and reducing gun violence is a significant and important one.” He also noted that California already allows young adults to carry semi-automatic rifles in self-defense or in a range other lawful purposes and allows them to receive weapons that are gifted or loaned to them.
Stein criticized the dependence of the majority on colonial history. While 16-year-olds could well have served in the militia, he explained, both the majority of the court and the plaintiffs err in equating the age of military service with the age of selling firearms.
Further, Stein noted that the modern understanding of brain development in young adults supports California’s arguments:
Beyond these significant safety concerns, contemporary scientific research is increasingly shedding light on the relative immaturity and incomplete cognitive development of young adults. California cites evidence that young adults are less mature than older adults, leading them to take more risks and behave more reactively than their elders. As a result, young adults become angry more quickly than older adults and are more prone to intense mood swings and making instinctive rather than considered decisions. This cognitive immaturity makes young adults more likely to use firearms in situations of significant emotional arousal or perceived threat, or in other situations that require rapid and complex information processing.
Attorney General Rob Bonta has not said publicly whether it will seek an en banc review of the panel’s decision.
“We are reviewing the decision,” a spokesman for Bonta’s office told Law&Crime. “California will continue to take all necessary steps to prevent and reduce gun violence. We remain committed to defending California’s sound gun laws that save lives and make our communities safer.”
“Today’s decision confirms that peaceful legal adults cannot be prohibited from acquiring firearms and exercising their rights enshrined in the Second Amendment,” said FPC vice president for programs Adam Kraut said in a statement about the verdict.
Read the full 9th Circle statement below.
[image via Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]
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