February 25, 2024
Second Amendment Courts Judges Strict Scrutiny
Judge Temporarily Stays Decision on Young Adults’ Gun Purchases

A week after a federal district court judge ruled the prohibition on 18 to 20-year-old adults buying guns from federal firearms licensees (FFL) was ruled unconstitutional, the same judge stayed his own decision pending an appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case Brown v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was filed by two West Virginia residents under the age of 21 named Steven Brown and Benjamin Weekley, the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), and West Virginia Citizens Defense League (WVCDL). It claimed that the law banning young adults under 21 was unconstitutional and did not stand up to the Bruin standard.

Since the Bruin decision by the Supreme Court, laws cannot rely on intermediate scrutiny to prove a law is constitutional. Intermediate scrutiny weighs the state’s interest against the people’s rights. Now, any gun laws must be consistent with the text, tradition, and history of the Second Amendment.

District court judge Thomas S. Kleeh ruled that the government didn’t prove that the law was constitutional. He pointed out that the ATF couldn’t give any analogues that showed a similar law from the founding era. He said that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of the case and thought that the law was unconstitutional. He rejected every argument the ATF made in its defense. He issued a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the law and refused to stay the injunction initially.

Now, the judge has decided to issue a stay in the case. He stated he stands behind his original decision and believes that the plaintiffs will succeed on the merits of the case, but highlighted how other courts came to different conclusions about the constitutionality of the law in his reasoning for issuing a stay.

“While the Court stands behind its reasoning and determination in its Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court finds that the first factor weighs in favor of staying the injunction,” the order reads. “Several federal district courts have evaluated the constitutionality of 922(b)(1)’s age ban with differing results. This lawsuit poses the substantial and novel question ‘of the proper definition of ‘the people’ in the Second Amendment and whether 18-to-21-year-olds fall within in it. In well-reasoned and thoughtful opinions, district courts have landed on both sides of that debate.’ Because Courts are split in their assessment of this question, reasonable minds can and have varied. Accordingly, the first factor weighs in favor of staying the injunction pending appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.”

The second reason the judge gave is that the government’s argument persuaded him that if it had to change its guidelines for FFLs multiple times, it would confuse the gun stores and hinder the enforcement of the laws.

“The Government furthermore would be placed in a difficult position of changing and then rechanging its guidance to FFLs and its processes, procedures, and forms, causing significant confusion for law enforcement officers, retailers, and citizens,” the government argued, “This confusion could hamper the Government’s ability to effectively engage in law enforcement, thus jeopardizing public safety interests.”

The judge also states that the injunction will not be nationwide if the stay is lifted. He says he does not have the authority to impose such an injunction.

“If/when the stay is lifted, the subject injunction is not a nationwide injunction,” the judge wrote. “Nor does the Court contend that it would have such authority to impose such a universal injunction.”

The ATF plans to appeal the injunction to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Until then, the stay will remain in effect.


About John Crump

John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.

John Crump

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