The ruling was delivered by Judge Thomas Kleeh, a former appointee of President Donald Trump and the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. The case was brought forward by Steven Robert Brown and Benjamin Weekley, who were barred from buying guns under the administration's directive, as reported by Breitbart.
The judgment stated that the plaintiffs' actions, namely the purchase of handguns, fell within the Second Amendment's 'unqualified command.' The statutes and regulations under scrutiny were deemed inconsistent with the nation's historical tradition of firearm regulation. Consequently, the rule preventing Brown and Weekley from buying handguns was deemed "facially unconstitutional and as applied to Plaintiffs."
The verdict drew heavily from the standard established by the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. vs. Bruen. This precedent necessitates that any gun control law must be rooted in the historical tradition of firearms regulation. Judge Kleeh emphasized that the government cannot merely assert that the regulation promotes an important interest. Instead, it must demonstrate that the regulation aligns with the nation's historical tradition of firearm regulation.
The federal government's argument that the parents of the two plaintiffs could purchase guns for their use was dismissed by the judge. He noted that the defendants generally missed the point and that the plaintiffs' injury was clear. The plaintiffs did not dispute that law-abiding adults aged 18 to 20, who are not otherwise banned from firearm possession, are not prohibited from possessing handguns. The injury that prompted the filing of this suit was their inability to purchase handguns and handgun ammunition from Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) due to the age-based ban.
The judge further dismissed the defendants' specific arguments. He rejected the notion that the plaintiffs suffered no injury because a parent or guardian could simply purchase the gun and give it to an 18- to 20-year-old. He stated that the deprivation of a constitutional right is an injury in fact, regardless of the existence of an 'easy' and lawful workaround. He also noted that the Supreme Court of the United States had previously rejected the government's reasoning in a different context.
Judge Kleeh asserted that under the current standard, Americans have the right to possess guns until the government can prove otherwise, which it failed to do in this case. He wrote, "If the normal and ordinary meaning of the Second Amendment's text protects the individual's proposed course of conduct, which the Court finds to be the case here, then the Amendment 'presumptively guarantees' the individual's right related to firearms, and the burden falls on the Government to justify the challenged regulation."
The judge concluded that the defendants had not presented any evidence of age-based restrictions on the purchase or sale of firearms from before or at the Founding or during the Early Republic. They also failed to offer evidence of similar regulation between then and 1791 or in a relevant timeframe thereafter. For this reason alone, the defendants failed to meet the burden imposed by Bruen.
Adam Kraut, executive director of the Second Amendment Foundation, hailed the ruling as a significant victory for Second Amendment rights, particularly for young adults. He criticized the Biden Justice Department's argument that people in this age group were not adults, calling it patently ludicrous. He added that the government could not defend the constitutionality of the handgun prohibition, and Judge Kleeh's ruling made that clear.
Alan M. Gottlieb, the foundation's founder and Executive Vice President, echoed these sentiments. He stated that there was never any historical evidence supporting this arbitrary ban on the purchase and ownership of handguns by young adults.
He argued that history suggests the opposite, with young adults historically considered mature enough to serve in the militia, the military, and take on other responsibilities. He expressed delight at the judge's ruling.