9th Circuit shoots down state ban on selling rifles to young adults

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has shot down a California ban on sales of semiautomatic rifles to young adults.

The decision in the case, Jones v. Bonta, brought by the Second Amendment Foundation, was returned to district court for further proceedings in what the SAF has described as a court victory.

“We are delighted with the opinion,” said SAF founder Alan M. Gottlieb. “The court majority rightly recognized that delaying the exercise of a right until age 21 does irreparable harm. It also applied strict scrutiny to the semi-auto ban.”

He explained the decision also could impact another case that challenges a similar regulation in the state of Washington, which also is under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit.

In that state, the ban was adopted via a citizen initiative in 2018, and is under challenge by the SAF and the National Rifle Association.

In the California case, the judges struck the ban on sales of certain weapons to people in the 18-20-year-old age group.

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Joining SAF in the case were the Firearms Policy Coalition, Inc., Firearms Policy Foundation, Calguns Foundation, Poway Weapons and Gear and PWG Range, North County Shooting Center, Inc, Beebe Family Arms and Munitions, and three private citizens including Matthew Jones for whom the case is named.

The majority opinion was written by Judge Ryan Nelson and he was joined by Judge Kenneth Lee, both Donald Trump appointees. Bill Clinton appointee Judge Sidney Stein joined the majority opinion in part.

Nelson said, “(T)he Second Amendment protects the right of young adults to keep and bear arms, which includes the right to purchase them. The district court reasoned otherwise and held that the laws did not burden Second Amendment rights at all: that was legal error…(T)he district court erred by applying intermediate scrutiny, rather than strict scrutiny, to the semiautomatic centerfire rifle ban. And even under intermediate scrutiny, this ban likely violates the Second Amendment because it fails the ‘reasonable fit’ test.”

The Washington Examiner reported Nelson added, “America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army. 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 Firearms Policy Coalition’s Adam Kraut noted, “Today’s decision confirms that peaceable legal adults cannot be prohibited from acquiring firearms and exercising their rights enshrined in the Second Amendment.”

State officials in California said they were reviewing the decision.

A statement they released said, “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.”

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