Court Rules Part of Major Virginia Gun-Control Measure Unconstitutional

Law prohibited residents under age 21 from purchasing handguns  

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July 15, 2020

A Virginia judge on Tuesday dealt a blow to Virginia Democrats' gun-control agenda, blocking part of the new universal background check law that would have made it nearly impossible for adults under 21 to purchase a handgun.

Judge F. Patrick Yeatts said a new state law that mandates federal background checks on all private handgun sales was unconstitutional because federal law only allows those 21 or older to purchase handguns from federally licensed dealers. The Virginia law would have made it illegal for adults under the age of 21 to purchase handguns in the state. The temporary injunction grants a reprieve for residents between the ages of 18 and 20 but left the rest of the law intact, as the court weighs a lawsuit brought by Second Amendment advocates.

Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), which is one of the plaintiffs in the case, said he is "obviously pleased" with the ruling but expects a long fight ahead. 

"There's clearly a constitutional issue here," he told the Washington Free Beacon. "It's my hope that we can overturn this law but it's going to have to work through the system. It's probably going to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Virginia." 

Attorney General Mark Herring (D.) said he intends to appeal the ruling. 

"Universal background check systems only work if they are truly universal, and we believe this potentially dangerous judicially created loophole is without basis in the law," he said in a statement. "So, while the judge agreed with nearly all of our arguments and largely upheld the law, we believe that this injunction, though limited and narrow, is worthy of higher review and I intend to appeal it as soon as possible." 

Van Cleave said VCDL plans to back the case through any appeals the state makes. He said the group would also continue to pursue legal challenges against other gun-control measures that the Democrat-controlled state adopted in July, including a new one-handgun-a-month law, red-flag law, and local gun-free zones.

"This is one of many battles," he said. "We've got like three irons in the fire." 

Attorney General Herring has already promised to fight back against the efforts to eliminate any of the state's new gun laws. 

"My top priority as Attorney General is to keep Virginians, their families, their loved ones, and their communities safe, which is why I am prepared to take every necessary step to ensure that Virginia's new gun safety measures remain in effect," he said. 

The injunction is effective immediately and will expire on October 15.