A 2nd amendment gun rights decision in a case out of the 4th U.S. District Court of Appeals could have some significant implications for gun rights here in Washington State.
In 2018 Voters of Washington State approved Initiative Measure No. I- 1639 which resulted in several changes to existing laws including denying the right for anyone under 21 years of age to legally purchase and possess a handgun.
An article in the UK Guardian described the State’s voting picture as, “I-1639 passed on a roughly 60-40 split; in the big, blue counties west of the Cascade Mountains, such as King County, where Seattle is located, the margins were even bigger….However, 27 of Washington’s 39 counties rejected the ballot measure. Many of those counties are in the state’s more rural, sparsely populated districts.”
In Yakima County, the measure failed with the “No” vote total of 39,467 or 55.83% and the “Yes” Vote total of 31,226 or 44.17%. Frankly, I was surprised it was even that close here.
Here’s the resulting language of the Revised State code. RCW 9.41.240
Possession of pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle by a person from eighteen to twenty-one.
(1) A person under twenty-one years of age may not purchase a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle, and except as otherwise provided in this chapter, no person may sell or transfer a semiautomatic assault rifle to a person under twenty-one years of age.
The Constitutional Question
At the time I-1639 passed groups like the National Rifle Association and others protested that the law violates both the second amendment and the state’s constitution. The new ruling out of the 4th circuit was decided on the Constitutional question of just when does an individual’s Constitutional Rights begin?
The Judges’ Decision
Earlier this week, a federal appeals court ruled that federal laws that prevent the sale of handguns to young adults under the age of 21 are unconstitutional and violate the Second Amendment. “In a 2-1 decision by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the court found that 18-year-olds possess the constitutional right to keep and bear arms and said the restrictions at issue in the legal battle amount to a “total ban” on buying a handgun from a licensed firearms dealer for those under the age of 21… Virtually every other constitutional right applies whatever the age. And the Second Amendment is no different,”
As you might expect, the case was brought by two plaintiffs, aged 19 and 20 at the time, who tried to buy handguns from licensed dealers but were denied because of their age. So what happens next? It’s expected the full 4th District Court will take up a review and depending on how that goes, it could end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. If that happens, Washington’s prohibition on 18,19 & 20-year-olds purchasing handguns could be short-lived.