May 13, 2022
A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down as unconstitutional another California law that infringed upon the Second Amendment rights of Golden State residents—this time those who are 18, 19 and 20 years old.
The ruling in the case Jones v. Bonta, handed down on Wednesday, found the prohibition to be too broad to be a reasonable fit for accomplishing the goal of reducing criminal violence using firearms, overturning a lower court ruling.
“First, the Second Amendment protects the right of young adults to keep and
bear arms, which includes the right to purchase them,” Judge Ryan Nelson, a Donald Trump appointee to the court, wrote for the majority. “The district court reasoned otherwise and held that the laws did not burden Second Amendment rights at all: that was legal error.”
In his opinion, Judge Nelson pointed to America’s long history of young adults taking up arms for their country all the way back to the nation’s founding.
“America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army,” he wrote. “Today we reaffirm that our Constitution still protects the right that enabled their sacrifice: the right of young adults to keep and bear arms.”
Writing for the minority, Bill Clinton appointee Judge Sidney Stein voted to retain the infringement because statistics show that Californians in the 18- to 20-year-old age group are more likely to commit violent crimes than those 21 and older.
“Neglecting consideration of either the disproportionate perpetration of violent crime by, or the relatively immature and variable cognitive development among, adults under age 21, the majority opinion fails to conduct a legal analysis that comports with the corpus of precedent within this Circuit and elsewhere,” Stein wrote. “Not only in my view is it error for the majority to apply strict scrutiny to the semi-automatic rifle regulation, but its alternative holding that the regulation fails under intermediate scrutiny suffers from a faulty assessment of whether the regulation is a ‘reasonable fit’ for California’s public policy objectives.”
In other words, Stein believes the ban should stay in place for all 18- to 20-year-olds because some of them use firearms to commit crimes.
Of course, California officials are reviewing the ruling and an appeal is possible.
Interestingly, the court’s ruling was a mish-mash of good and bad, as it left in place a general prohibition on California adults under 21 owning rifles and shotguns with significant exceptions, including those owning a hunting license. Writing for the court, Judge Ryan said the lower court had decided that one correctly.
“…the district court properly applied intermediate scrutiny to the long gun hunting license
regulation and did not abuse its discretion in finding it likely to survive,” Ryan wrote concerning that portion of the decision.
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.