California's ban on the sale of semi-automatic weapons to adults under the age of 21 violates the country's constitution, a US federal appeals court has ruled.
California has in recent years passed several laws tightening the regulation of firearms, which, according to recently released federal data, were linked to more than 45,000 deaths nationwide in 2020.
Buyers under 21 years old are already prohibited from purchasing handguns in California, but a new law that went into effect on 1 July 2021 added a prohibition on the sale of semi-automatic weapons.
That new law was challenged by several individuals and groups lobbying for gun ownership rights, and the case has been working its way through the courts.
By a two-to-one vote, judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the law violated the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which says that Americans have a right to "keep and bear arms."
"America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army," wrote Judge Ryan Nelson, referring to America's war for independence almost 250 years ago.
"Today, we reaffirm that our Constitution still protects the right that enabled their sacrifice: the right of young adults to keep and bear arms," added Judge Nelson, who was nominated to the court by former president Donald Trump.
The appellate court's decision does not impact California's ban on the sale of handguns to those under 21, which is also the legal age at which individuals are allowed to purchase alcohol throughout the United States.
According to Small Arms Survey, there were approximately 393 million firearms in civilian possession in the United States as of 2017, or more than one per person.
Despite recurring mass-casualty shootings and a nationwide wave of gun violence, several initiatives to reform gun regulations have failed in the US Congress, leaving states and local councils to enact their own restrictions.