Teixeira v. County of Alameda: Supporting Zoning Laws That Keep Gun Stores Out Of Sensitive Areas

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Case Information: Teixeira v. County of Alameda, No. 13-17132 (Ninth Circuit brief filed Aug. 1, 2016).

At Issue: This case involves a Second Amendment challenge to Alameda County’s gun dealer ordinance, which prohibits gun stores within 500 feet of any school, liquor store, or residence. The district court upheld the ordinance, but a divided Ninth Circuit panel vacated the district court’s opinion and remanded for further proceedings. The County filed a petition for rehearing or rehearing en banc, which is currently pending before the Ninth Circuit.

The Law Center’s Brief:  Our brief explains that Alameda County’s modest dealer law provides a safe distance between new gun dealers and sensitive areas such as schools, and is a lawful exercise of the County’s authority to regulate the commercial sale of guns. Our brief urges the Court to rehear Teixeira because the panel’s opinion disregarded the Supreme Court’s determination in Heller that laws imposing conditions on the commercial sale of firearms are presumptively lawful, and also broke with Ninth Circuit precedent by requiring the County to demonstrate that its dealer ordinance is “longstanding.”

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

 

Florida Carry v. City of Tallahassee: Opposing Preemption Laws that Punish Legislators for Their Votes

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Case Information: Florida Carry, et al. v. City of Tallahassee, et al., No. 2014-CA-1168 (First District Court of Appeal brief filed May 26, 2016).

At Issue: This case involves a Florida preemption law that limits local regulation in the field of firearms and purports to impose harsh penalties on local officials found to violate the law. The City of Tallahassee argued that the law is unconstitutional, but the Florida Circuit Court held that it did not need to reach this question because Tallahassee legislators did not violate the law. The case is now on appeal with the First District Court of Appeal.

The Law Center’s Brief: Our brief explains that under Florida’s dangerous law, local legislators can be personally punished if they vote for a local ordinance that impinges upon the field of firearms regulation. We argue that this unprecedented approach to enforcing a preemption law, since followed by other states, is unconstitutional because it deprives legislators of constitutionally-guaranteed immunity from civil liability for their legislative activities. Further, we argue that fining and removing legislators from office for voting will discourage people from seeking elected office in Florida, chill democratic participation, and deter enactment of non-preempted laws.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Wollschlaeger v. State of Florida: The Constitution Protects Patients’ Right to Receive Gun Safety Information

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Case Information: Wollschlaeger v. State of Florida, No. 12-14009 (11th Circuit en banc brief filed April 27, 2016).

At Issue: This case challenges Florida’s physician “gag rule,” which subjects doctors to discipline if they inquire into a patient’s gun ownership and storage, among other things. In 2012 the district court granted an injunction to prevent the law from going into effect, finding that the gag rule violated doctors’ First Amendment rights. Although a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed, the full court subsequently voted to vacate the panel’s opinion and rehear the case en banc.

The Law Center’s Brief: Our brief argues that in addition to violating the First Amendment rights of doctors, Florida’s gag rule violates patients’ First Amendment right to receive lifesaving information from their doctors without government interference. The law deprives patients of evidence-based information concerning the risks of gun ownership and unsafe gun storage, exposing them to harm that could otherwise be avoided. We explain that patients’ right to receive accurate, complete information from their doctors about guns is especially critical in light of the strong empirical links between gun ownership and gun injury or death.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

 

Protecting Strong Gun Laws: The Supreme Court Leaves Lower Court Victories Untouched

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In the last eight years, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected more than 70 cases seeking to expand the very limited right defined in the unprecedented Second Amendment case, District of Columbia v. Heller. By repeatedly declining to review lower court decisions upholding federal, state, and local gun laws, the Supreme Court has maintained important limitations on the Second Amendment and has reconfirmed that the Amendment is not an obstacle to smart gun laws that keep our communities safe from gun violence.

Since the Court’s decision in the Heller case 2008, lower courts across the country have been inundated with costly and time-consuming challenges to state and local gun laws.  However, lower courts have consistently upheld these laws, noting that many of these laws have been successful at protecting people from gun violence and keeping guns out of the hands of criminals while still allowing law-abiding citizens to keep guns in their homes for self defense.  Since 2008, there have been over 1,090 Second Amendment cases challenging gun laws nationwide, with an overwhelming majority—94%—of the lower court decisions upholding those laws.

Many of these Second Amendment challenges to gun laws make their way to the Supreme Court.  However, the Court has refused to hear these cases,1 leaving lower court decisions upholding the laws intact and keeping strong gun laws on the books.  For example, the Supreme Court has refused to hear cases that:

Notes
  1. In 2010, the Court decided McDonald v. City of Chicago, which held that the right recognized in Heller extends to state and local governments.  That case involved a Chicago law nearly identical to the one struck down in Heller and did not expand the substantive scope of the Second Amendment.

Draper v. Healey: Supporting Massachusetts’ Life-Saving Handgun Design Safety Standards

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Case Information: Draper v. Healey, No. 14-12471 (1st Cir. Brief Filed Jan. 29, 2016)

At Issue: This case involves a Second Amendment challenge to several handgun design safety regulations in Massachusetts, including a requirement that handguns be equipped with a “load indicator” so that users will know when a bullet is in the firing chamber. The challenged regulations were upheld in their entirety by the district court and the case is now on appeal with the First Circuit.

The Law Center’s Brief:  Our brief argues that the challenged regulations are “presumptively lawful” conditions on the commercial sale of firearms (a category expressly recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court), which fall entirely outside the scope of the Second Amendment. We also explain the importance of design safety standards when it comes to preventing the thousands of unintentional shootings that occur in America every single year. Even if the challenged regulations do burden the Second Amendment, they easily satisfy intermediate scrutiny as they are substantially related to the important government interest of protecting public safety by reducing unintentional shootings. 

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Watson v. Lynch: The Second Amendment Does Not Protect the Possession of Machine Guns

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Case Information: Watson v. Lynch, No. 15-2859 (3d Cir. Brief Filed Jan. 28, 2016)

At Issue: This case involves a Second Amendment challenge to federal laws that generally prohibit the private possession of machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986. The district court ruled that the challenged laws do not violate the Second Amendment, and the case is now on appeal before the Third Circuit.

The Law Center’s Brief: Our brief focuses on the argument that machine guns are not protected firearms under the Second Amendment. We explain to the Third Circuit that machine guns are outside the scope of the Second Amendment for at least two distinct reasons: 1) machine guns easily qualify as “dangerous and unusual” weapons under Heller; and 2) the machine gun ban qualifies as a “longstanding” prohibition. Our brief establishes that these categories are best understood as categorical exceptions to the Second Amendment right and therefore fall outside of its scope entirely. Finally, the brief traces both the historical origins and ongoing success of machine gun regulation in America.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Voisine v. United States: Limiting Gun Possession for Those Convicted of Domestic Abuse

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Case Information: Voisine v. U.S., No. 14-10154 (U.S. Supreme Court Brief Filed Jan. 26, 2016)

At Issue: Petitioners in this case argue that they should not be prohibited under federal law from possessing firearms, even though they were convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence. The argument is a very technical legal argument that would have the effect of greatly narrowing the circumstances under which a convicted domestic abuser would be prohibited from firearm possession under federal law. These arguments were rejected by the First Circuit, and the case is now on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Law Center’s Brief:  We joined with the Brady Center on an amicus brief in which we argue that the federal firearm prohibition for convicted domestic abusers should be interpreted broadly to include individuals convicted of recklessly injuring a domestic partner. Our brief points out important social science research demonstrating how important it is that this life-saving probation be interpreted broadly. For example, studies show that in households with a history of domestic violence, the presence of a gun makes a homicide 5 times more likely.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Bauer v. Harris: Defending $19 Fee Imposed on Firearm Sales in California

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Case Information: Bauer v. Harris, No. 15-15428 (9th Cir. Brief Filed Oct. 22, 2015)

At Issue: This case involves a Second Amendment challenge to the use of the $19 Dealer Record of Sale (“DROS”) fee — imposed by the State of California on the sale of all firearms — to fund the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS), which is used to disarm individuals who have previously purchased a firearm, but who have subsequently become prohibited from firearm possession because of a criminal conviction or other disqualifying event. The district court for the Eastern District of California upheld the DROS fee as a “presumptively lawful” condition placed on the commercial sale of firearms. The case in now on appeal before the Ninth Circuit.

The Law Center’s Brief:  The brief argues that the district court correctly determined that the use of the DROS fee to fund APPS does not violate the Second Amendment as it is a “presumptively lawful” condition on the commercial sale of firearms. Moreover, even if this use of the DROS fee were to burden Second Amendment rights, it is valid because it is substantially related to the important government interest of reducing gun crime and violence. Finally, the brief explains the important role played by the DROS fee and the APPS program in addressing gun violence and the unique success that California has had in reducing gun violence through comprehensive firearms regulation.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Pena v. Lindley: Amicus Brief Defending California’s Unsafe Handgun Act

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Case InformationPena v. Lindley,  No. 15-15449 (9th Cir. Brief Filed Sept. 28, 2015)

At Issue: This case presents a Second Amendment challenge to the California Unsafe Handgun Act (“UHA”), which requires that all handguns must meet certain safety requirements before they may be sold within the State. The district court from the Eastern District of California rejected this challenge, noting that the UHA is a regulation on the commercial sale of arms and is therefore a “presumptively lawful” regulation falling outside the scope of the Second Amendment. The case is now on appeal before the Ninth Circuit.

The Law Center’s Brief: The Law Center’s brief addresses the importance of the Unsafe Handgun Act in keeping cheap and poorly made handguns off of the streets in California. The brief argues that the district court correctly concluded that the UHA law falls outside the scope of the Second Amendment, as it merely places a condition on the commercial sale of handguns and does not act as a prohibition. In the alternative, even if the UHA does burden conduct protected by the Second Amendment, it easily passes constitutional review under intermediate scrutiny, which is the appropriate level of review in this context, because of the minimal burden that the UHA imposes on the right to possess a firearm in the home for self-defense.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Wrenn v. District of Columbia: Joining with the Brady Center to Defend the District’s Concealed Carry Permitting System

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Case Information: Wrenn v. District of Columbia, No. 15-7057 (D.C. Cir. Brief Filed Sept. 3, 2015)

At Issue: This cases challenges the constitutionality of the District’s regulations regarding the issuance of concealed carry permits. Similar to California law, the District requires that a CCW applicant show a specific need for a permit and a general self-defense interest is not enough to meet this burden. These “may-issue” systems are in place in several states across the country and are associated with a reduction in crime, including aggravated assault. However, the district court found that these laws violate the Second Amendment and the case is now on appeal with the D.C. Circuit.

Our Amicus Brief: The Law Center joined an amicus brief coordinated by the Brady Center that defends the constitutionality of the District’s concealed carry regime and argues that this regime does not violate the Second Amendment. The brief also focuses on the relevant evidence provided by social science research and the perspective of law enforcement with respect to the regulation of concealed carry in public places. The brief argues that there is a strong policy justification for a concealed carry permitting regime that requires applicants to demonstrate an elevated level of need before a permit may be issued.