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Handgun-Sales Age Requirement Upheld by Court in NRA Suit

Government lawyers convinced a U.S. judge in Lubbock, Texas, that the ban didn’t violate younger National Rifle Association members’ Second Amendment right to bear arms or Fifth Amendment guarantee of equal protection. Photographer: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images
Government lawyers convinced a U.S. judge in Lubbock, Texas, that the ban didn’t violate younger National Rifle Association members’ Second Amendment right to bear arms or Fifth Amendment guarantee of equal protection. Photographer: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

April 30 (Bloomberg) -– A U.S. law that prohibits federally licensed dealers from selling handguns to buyers under the age of 21 was upheld by an appeals court in a lawsuit brought by the National Rifle Association.

The NRA sued the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in 2010 on claims the federal ban violated the constitutional rights of more than 11,000 NRA members who were 18 and older, though still younger than the federal minimum.

Government lawyers convinced a U.S. judge in Lubbock, Texas, that the ban didn’t violate younger NRA members’ Second Amendment right to bear arms or Fifth Amendment guarantee of equal protection. The U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans yesterday agreed in a 41-page revised opinion.

“Congress designed its scheme to solve a particular problem: violent crime associated with the trafficking of handguns from federal firearms licensees to young adults,” U.S. Circuit Judge Edward C. Prado wrote on behalf of the three-member appeals panel.

“Congress could have sought to prohibit all persons under 21 from possessing handguns -– or all guns, for that matter,” Prado said. “But Congress deliberately adopted a calibrated, compromise approach.”

The law doesn’t prohibit adults under age 21 from owning “long guns” or legally acquiring handguns from parents or guardians, Prado said. He also said Congressional concerns were well-founded as illustrated by U.S. Census Bureau statistics that “18-to-20-year-olds accounted for a disproportionately high percentage of arrests for violent crimes” in 2010.

Charles Cooper, the NRA’s attorney, didn’t immediately respond to phone and e-mail messages yesterday after regular business hours seeking comment on the ruling.

The case is National Rifle Association of America Inc. v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 11-10959, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (New Orleans).

To contact the reporter on this story: Laurel Brubaker Calkins in Houston laurel@calkins.us.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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