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US judge strikes down law barring handgun sales to under 21

A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that federal regulations prohibiting the sale of handguns to people under the age of 21 violate their constitutional right to bear arms.

The ruling, which is expected to be challenged by the Justice Department, will not take effect until Judge Robert Payne of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, delivers his final order in the coming weeks.

The verdict has no bearing on the 19 states that have laws prohibiting the sale of handguns to anybody under the age of 21.

Payne’s decision builds on the Supreme Court’s recent expansion of gun rights, which the judge frequently referred to in his ruling delivered on Wednesday.

“Because the statutes and regulations in question are not consistent with our nation’s history and tradition, they, therefore, cannot stand,” Payne wrote in his ruling.

Lawyers for the Justice Department did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Elliott Harding, the counsel representing the four initial plaintiffs, ages 18 to 20, who wanted to buy pistols, expressed satisfaction with the verdict.

“Even though it ensures that future buyers can now purchase these firearms in the federal system, which includes background checks and other requirements,” Harding added. “However, we remain confident that the decision will be upheld in due course.”

Gun rights, cherished by many Americans and given by the country’s founders in the 18th century, are a difficult topic in a society plagued by high levels of weapon violence, including multiple mass shootings.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been at least 210 so far in 2023, the most at this stage in the year since at least 2016. A mass shooting is defined by the nonprofit group as any incident in which four or more persons are injured or killed, not including the perpetrator.

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