LYNCHBURG, VA –-(Ammoland.com)- Tuesday, Judge Patrick Yeatts of the Lynchburg Circuit Court in Virginia struck down part of Virginia’s new universal background check law that went into effect on July 1st, 2020.
In a case brought by Gun Owners of America and Virginia Citizens Defense League, the gun-rights group argued that the new universal background check law was unconstitutional under the Virginia Constitution. The law requires background checks for all private firearms sales in the Commonwealth. The state argued that this new regulation closed the so-called “gun show loophole.”
Attorneys for GOA and VCDL argued that the law violated the state’s Constitution. Under Virginia law, 18 to 20-year-old residents are allowed to purchase handguns in private sales. Under federal law, firearm dealers are expressly prohibited from transferring handguns to anyone under the age of 21. Since the new law requires all transfer to go through a licensed dealer, it became impossible for anyone under 21 to acquire a handgun in Virginia.
The state’s Attorney General’s Office argued that the issue was with federal law and not state law since the Virginia law did not raise the age to buy a handgun. Virginia called the prohibition a “NICS technical issue.” The pro-gun groups argued by removing the means for someone under 21 from receiving a handgun that the law did violate the Virginia Constitution.
The judge was unmoved by the state’s counter-arguments. GOA and VCDL asked the judge to knock down the whole law. The judge decided just to rule on the legality as it is applied to any Virginia resident under the age of 21. In his decision, he said the law did violate the rights of those under 21 from acquiring a handgun since the age of adulthood in Virginia is 18. He issued an emergency injunction for the plaintiffs in the case.
Those under 21 are exempt from universal background checks on handguns. The decision will most likely force the hand of the state into an appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court. The highest state court could reverse Judge Yeatts’s decision or knock down the law entirely.
Judge Yeatts’s decision marked the first time in Virginia history that a judge issued a temporary injunction against an act of the General Assembly. Executive Vice President of Gun Owners America, Erich Pratt, celebrated the historic victory for gun owners in the Commonwealth and hoped that it opened the door to striking down the whole law.
“While keeping in mind that today’s ruling is on the temporary injunction — and not the case as a whole — there is much to celebrate in today’s decision,” Pratt said. “The court’s opinion provides one of the most comprehensive rejections of balancing tests that we have seen in courts throughout the country. The opinion dismantles the Commonwealth’s legal arguments piece by piece, rejecting the idea that judges can use a ‘sliding-scale framework’ and can jiggle empirical arguments in a way that overrides constitutionally-protected rights.”
“The judge also issued a statewide injunction which prevents the law from being applied to 18-20-year-olds who are purchasing a firearm through a private sale. This is a historic victory. According to statements made in court by the Solicitor General, no court has ever before issued a temporary injunction to invalidate an act from the General Assembly – that is, until today. Obviously, we would have wished to see the judge extend the injunction to all private transactions, and we will continue to press ahead with the case.”
AmmoLand reached out to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, but the AG’s Office decided not to return our calls.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. He is the former CEO of Veritas Firearms, LLC and is the co-host of The Patriot News Podcast which can be found at www.blogtalkradio.com/patriotnews. John has written extensively on the patriot movement including 3%'ers, Oath Keepers, and Militias. In addition to the Patriot movement, John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and is currently working on a book on leftist deplatforming methods and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, on Facebook at realjohncrump, or at www.crumpy.com.