Never mind the fact that the United States is already in the midst of the biggest crime wave in 30 years thanks to the feckless leadership by Democratic mayors in the face of last year’s riots and civil unrest. The Washington Post is sounding the alarm about a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision overturning the federal ban on retail sales of handguns to young adults under the age of 21, claiming that if the federal law is scrapped, violent crime is going to get a lot worse.
That act of judicial arrogance, if affirmed on appeal, would likely accelerate the current spike in homicides, many of them committed with handguns by individuals under the age of 21. And it comes as Americans are embarked on a record-setting gun-buying spree, which began during the pandemic and shows no sign of waning.
The split decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit also ignored the Supreme Court’s own decision in the landmark Heller case, from 2008. While the court overturned the District of Columbia’s restrictions on handguns in private homes, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, stressed that laws limiting firearms possession, for example by people deemed dangerous or “in sensitive places such as schools,” are legitimate for public safety.
Scalia’s comments had nothing to do with the federal prohibition on retail handgun gun sales to those under the age of 21. In fact, under federal law its not illegal for a 19-year old to possess a pistol; it’s just against federal law for her to go to a gun store, undergo a background check, and purchase a handgun once she’s come back approved. As the majority opined, the Second Amendment isn’t a second-class right, and young adults aren’t second-class citizens.
As for the Second Amendment, the dissenting judge, James A. Wynn Jr., had it right in writing that in a country where gun owners “may conceal their weapons, carry them openly, or ‘stand their ground,’ and where civilian gun ownership rates are second to none, the majority’s second-class status concern is simply surreal.”
We have states that have banned the most commonly-sold rifles and magazines in the country, states that prevent the average citizen from both keeping and bearing arms without permission from the government, and federal laws that treat all young adults as if they’re incipient criminals and should therefore be forbidden from purchasing the most commonly-sold type of firearm. I wouldn’t say that the Second Amendment is as protected as the First Amendment, and what’s truly surreal is watching the Post try to argue for laws that inhibit the right of self-defense for those under the age of 21.
What’s more germane is that arrest rates for violent crimes tend to peak around age 18, and, in 2016, nearly half of all gun murders were committed by perpetrators in their teens and early 20s — even though that group represented less than 18 percent of the U.S. population.
That correlation between violent crime and the youngest adults impelled Congress, in 1968, to ban the sale of handguns by licensed dealers to individuals under 21. It’s true that teenagers can and do obtain weapons with relative ease by other means; it’s also folly to open a door to further facilitate their legal purchase. Here’s hoping that the full 4th Circuit, to which the panel’s decision is likely to be appealed, will reverse a senseless ruling.
It’s true that a disproportionate amount of violent crime is committed by young adults, though the RAND study cited by the Washington Post says that arrests for violent crimes peaked at 18-years of age in 2012, which suggests that minimum purchase ages for handguns aren’t having much, if any, impact on violent crime rates. In fact, the study found “inconclusive evidence” that age restrictions actually reduce crime at all, though RAND did suggest that banning all gun sales to those under 21 could have some modest impact on suicide rates.
Even if young adults are more likely to commit violent crimes, the vast majority of adults under the age of 21 are still law-abiding citizens. If a 19-year old woman can get married, sign a contract, buy a shotgun, and even possess a handgun for self-defense, why should it be a federal crime for her to purchase a pistol from a federally licensed gun store?
The Washington Post doesn’t have an answer. The paper’s editors simply believe that getting rid of this federal law will make the current crime spike even worse, though there’s no evidence that’s the case. Because of their unreasonable fears about what might happen, they’re willing to keep an unreasonable and unconstitutional law in place. There’s nothing senseless about the Fourth Circuit’s decision upholding the Second Amendment rights of young adults. It’s the WaPo’s objections that lack common sense.