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California Gun Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

California’s ban on the purchase of semi automatic weapons by citizens between the ages of 18 and 21 was ruled unconstitutional by a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, May 11th, in a 2-1 decision that gun rights advocates hope will set a precedent for the repeal of similar such bans across the country.

The 2019 ban came into effect in the aftermath of several highly publicized mass shootings perpetrated by young adults, such as the Parkland Shooting in 2018 and the Synagogue shooting in 2019 in San Diego county; adults under the age of 21 but serving in the military or law enforcement were exempt from the law. The majority decision interpreted this as an arbitrary infringement on the rights of citizens 18 to 20 years of age.

“America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army,” Judge Ryan Nelson wrote in the majority opinion. “Today we reaffirm that our Constitution still protects the right that enabled their sacrifice: the right of young adults to keep and bear arms.”

The case, brought by the Firearm Policy Coalition on behalf of 20 year old San Diego resident Matthew Jones, was not a complete victory for the plaintiff. The court struck down the age-based ban but upheld another California law requiring that citizens obtain a hunting license before being eligible to purchase long guns such as rifles and shotguns. The court upheld the licensing process as “sensible firearm control.” 

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said his office is reviewing the decision. According to his office, “California will continue to take all necessary steps to prevent and reduce gun violence … We remain committed to defending California’s commonsense gun laws, which save lives and make our communities safer.”

Judge Kenneth Lee, the other member of the majority, previously authored a decision that struck down California’s ban on the sale of high capacity magazines, although that decision was overturned in a 7-4 review by a broader court panel. Judges Nelson and Lee were both appointed by President Trump, who spearheaded a move by Republicans to promote originalist jurisprudence on the bench. Allies and critics alike have noted an ideological shift among jurists in recent years.

Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, stated that “In the coming years, the courts seem certain to strike down numerous gun safety measures in the name of the 2nd Amendment. This 9th Circuit ruling is a harbinger of things to come.”