What To Know Today

Federal court knocks down ban on handgun sales to adults under 21. In a divided 2-1 opinion, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that rules preventing federally licensed firearms dealers from selling handguns to 18- to 20-year-olds was unconstitutional. The case at hand: Two people in Virginia who were unable to purchase handguns because of their age challenged the existing laws, naming the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Attorney General Merrick Garland as defendants in their suit. “Our nation’s most cherished constitutional rights vest no later than 18,” Judge Julius Richardson, a Trump appointee, wrote for the majority. He was joined by George W. Bush appointee Judge G. Steven Agee. The ruling adds that “nothing in the text of the Second Amendment limits its application by age,” and leaves open the possibility that any age-based gun restrictions could be imperiled if the ruling holds. Judge James A. Wynn Jr., an Obama appointee, argued in a strongly worded dissenting opinion that courts should defer to lawmakers who enacted the age restrictions in 1968. “The majority’s decision to grant the gun lobby a victory in a fight it lost on Capitol Hill more than 50 years ago is not compelled by law,” he wrote. The Justice Department is all but certain to appeal the ruling, which could go back to the full appeals court. 

Vote on ATF nominee David Chipman in holding pattern as senators, including some Democrats, remain undecided. Last month, the Senate Judiciary Committee split along party lines on advancing Chipman’s nomination to lead the ATF, where he previously worked for 24 years. Many Republicans are taking issue with his subsequent years of gun reform advocacy, most recently at Giffords. With a full Senate vote looming, Politico reported that at least three Democratic senators — Joe Manchin, Angus King, and Jon Tester — had not said whether they would vote for Chipman. The Reload echoed that reporting, and cited congressional sources to say that the Senate was unlikely to vote on the nomination this week without Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s assurance that he had the 50 votes needed for confirmation. Gun reform groups attempted to rally support for Chipman on Tuesday in the wake of intense lobbying by the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups.

After backlash, a Utah gun company ceased customizing firearms to look like Legos. Culper Precision priced various models of the “BLOCK19,” a kit that covered a working Glock handgun with legos to look like a toy, anywhere from $549 to $765. “We have been building guns out of blocks for the last 30 years and wanted to flip the script to aggravate Mom,” the company’s website read, per The Washington Post. Amid a wave of negative reactions from commentators noting the incidence of child shootings, the company’s president ultimately decided to pull the model after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Lego. Related: The Trace’s Alain Stephens has reported on how gun companies have long been in the practice of procuring licensing deals with toy manufacturers to produce toy guns fashioned with the same branding, weight, and materials as the real things. More than 150 people holding an airsoft replica have been shot and killed by police since 2015. 

How the pandemic, police brutality, and calls to defund the police convinced first-time gun buyers to arm themselves. As gun sales surged to historic heights last year, many people went shopping for firearms for the very first time. The Washington Post features some people who chose to arm themselves in the wake of tumultuous election years, mass shootings, George Floyd’s murder, and the pandemic, among other things. The buyers included: A man who was anti-gun all his life until Covid made him feel on edge and drove him to buy a Beretta; a Black woman concerned about police violence who now feels like she can protect herself on her own; and a social worker from Newark who finally purchased a gun because of last summer’s unrest. “I never felt like I would want to own a gun because of the damage I thought they do to people,” she said. “But when I started feeling unsafe, all of that changed.”

Data Point

425 — the number of teenagers who’ve received grief counseling services at the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia since September in the wake of losing family or friends or surviving a shooting themselves. The partnership, which is experiencing a shortage of counselors as gun violence surges, reported there were 174 people on the waitlist at the end of last month — compared to about 30 a year before. [Associated Press]