A federal judge overturned a law that for more than half a century prohibited licensed gunsmiths from selling pistols and handguns to youths under the age of 21.
The decision, issued on Wednesday, represents a major setback for advocates of better gun control as they try to convince the US Congress to ban young people from purchasing semi-automatic weapons.
These weapons, like the AR-15, used in many mass shootings, were not common in 1968, when congressmen passed a law that prohibited gunsmiths from selling revolvers to young people under 21 years of age, on the grounds that they committed more crimes than older ones.
Since then, young Americans have been able to obtain revolvers and pistols at private sales or across their country, but not at federally licensed stores, where they can buy all types of weapons.
The 1968 law has been the subject of several legal actions since its adoption, but has remained until then.
On Wednesday, Federal Judge Robert Payne of Virginia ruled that a ruling handed down in June by the US Supreme Court had changed the situation.
The highest court in the United States, predominantly conservative, ruled that the Constitution protected the right of Americans to carry a gun outside the home and determined that the only possible restrictions should be part of the country’s history.
For Judge Payne, this is not the case here: “the law and its implementing decrees are not consistent with the history and traditions of our nation and, therefore, cannot be maintained”, he defended, according to his 71-page decision.
“From ancient times, young people have behaved like… young people. The social problem of their impetuosity and haste precedes the founding fathers” who, however, did not adopt rules to prevent them from acquiring weapons, he adds.
His decision, which is expected to be appealed and could go to the Supreme Court, was heavily criticized by the association Everytown for Gun Safety, which campaigns for more restrictions on firearms.
“Young people between the ages of 18 and 20 commit homicides with firearms at a rate three times higher than adults over 21 years old”, said this association in a statement, warning that the decision “will undoubtedly put lives at risk”.
In 2021, firearms caused more than 47,000 deaths in the United States, including 26,000 suicides, according to the Gun Violence Archive website.