UVA student mounts legal battle to lower age-limit on handgun purchases

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) — A University of Virginia student and a young woman from Albemarle County are taking a stand against a gun law legislation enacted years ago. They want to see the age limit lowered for handgun purchases, but their reasoning may surprise you.

Cropped Photo: Neon Tommy / CC BY-SA 2.0

UVA fourth-year student Tanner Hirschfield and 19-year-old Natalia Marshall, of Albemarle County, are not letting a decision from a federal judge in Charlottesville stop their fight. They argue a law that limits their ability to purchase handguns is flawed, discriminatory, and encourages unsafe behavior.

The pair were 20 and 18 respectively when they first brought their challenge to a key portion of the Gun Control Act of 1968. Currently, people under 21 can buy higher-powered weapons, like rifles and shotguns, in gun shops, but not handguns. But the law actually does allow people under 21 to own them – just not buy them.

Hirschfield and Marshall argue the law encourages people to find other ways to obtain handguns. Their attorney says a potential solution is doing away with that portion of the law entirely and letting anyone over 18 buy handguns.

"They are adults in every other sense of the Constitution. I mean, they can vote. Tanner can be drafted into the service. A lot of times, these young adults we see around the country where people are trying to raise the age for firearm possession altogether, they view it as a fundamental liberty,” said Elliott Harding, Hirschfield's attorney.

They argued the law infringes upon their Second Amendment rights and discriminates against them based on their age, but earlier this month, a federal judge disagreed and dismissed the case.

Despite the legal setback, they plan to file an appeal of the district court’s ruling within the next several weeks. Hirschfield recently turned 21, but he is still involved in the suit.

You also have to be at least 21 years old to obtain a concealed carry permit in Virginia, though open carry is legal for anyone 18 or over. As of this year, the minimum age to purchase tobacco or nicotine products in Virginia was raised to 21 as well.

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