Stimmel v. Sessions: Protecting Domestic Abuse Victims from Gun Violence

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Case Information: Stimmel v. Sessions, No. 15-4196 (Sixth Circuit brief filed Mar. 31, 2017).

At Issue: This case involves an as-applied Second Amendment challenge to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9), the federal law prohibiting firearm possession by people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit arguing that because he has only one conviction for domestic abuse, and the conviction is a number of years old, it is unconstitutional to subject him to the § 922(g)(9) prohibition. The district court dismissed plaintiff’s constitutional challenge, and the case is now on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The Law Center’s Brief: Our brief argues that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff’s constitutional challenge, because people convicted of domestic violence crimes are serious lawbreakers who fall outside the scope of the Second Amendment as historically understood. Further, we argue that even if § 922(g)(9) implicates the Second Amendment, the wealth of evidence demonstrating a clear link between domestic abuse and firearm violence justifies prohibiting domestic violence misdemeanants from possessing guns.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Soto v. Bushmaster: Supporting the Sandy Hook Families

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Case Information: Soto et al. v. Bushmaster et al., S.C. Nos. 19832 & 19833 (Connecticut Supreme Court brief filed Mar. 20, 2017).

At Issue: This case involves claims brought by families of the victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, against the sellers and maker of the assault weapon used in the shooting. The families’ lawsuit claimed that the marketing and sale of the assault weapon violated Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), but the Connecticut Superior Court concluded that the families lacked standing to sue under CUTPA because they were not in a “business relationship” with the defendants. The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed to hear the families’ appeal from the decision dismissing their lawsuit.

The Law Center’s Brief: We filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff families. Our brief argues that requiring a business relationship for standing under CUTPA conflicts with the decisions of courts in a number of other states, which have interpreted similar trade practices laws to confer standing on all parties injured by violations. Our brief included a 50-state survey of relevant unfair trade practice laws, and concluded that of the fourteen states with laws similar to Connecticut’s, none have required a “business relationship,” and six have affirmatively found that no business relationship is required for an injured plaintiff to have standing.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Nichols v. Brown: Opposing a Dangerous Push for Open Carry in California

(Photo: AP/Houston Chronicle, Johnny Hanson)

(Photo: AP/Houston Chronicle, Johnny Hanson)

Case Information: Nichols v. Brown, No. 14-55873 (Ninth Circuit brief filed Feb. 24, 2017).

At Issue: This case involves a Second Amendment challenge to California’s open carry regulations. California’s commonsense policies generally prohibit the open carry of firearms in incorporated areas of the state, and restrict open carry in more populated parts of unincorporated areas. There are exceptions such as in emergencies where someone may need to briefly openly carry a gun for self-defense. This lawsuit, pending before the Ninth Circuit, asserts the extreme position that the Second Amendment particularly protects the right to openly carry in populated public areas, no matter the consequences for public safety.

The Law Center’s Brief: We filed an amicus brief arguing that California’s open carry laws do not implicate a Second Amendment-protected right, because they are consistent with longstanding public carry regulations dating back to the Founding and earlier. In the alternative, our brief argues that California’s laws satisfy intermediate scrutiny, because they are reasonably tailored to accomplish the state’s critical safety objectives. Those objectives include protecting police officers and the public from intimidation and harm, and conserving state law enforcement resources.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Boente v. Binderup: Ensuring Dangerous Felons Can’t Obtain Firearms

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Case Information: Boente v. Binderup et al., No. 16-847 (U.S. Supreme Court brief filed Feb. 3, 2017).

At Issue: This case involves a Second Amendment challenge to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), the federal law prohibiting gun ownership by people convicted of felonies punishable by more than 1 year in prison, or misdemeanors punishable by more than 2 years in prison. A majority of Third Circuit judges, sitting en banc, agreed that § 922(g)(1) is unconstitutional as applied to Daniel Binderup (who was convicted of corrupting a minor), and Julio Suarez (who was convicted of carrying an unlicensed handgun). However, the judges in the majority agreed only on the outcome — that Binderup and Suarez should be allowed to obtain firearms. The judges were divided on the proper methodology to evaluate “as-applied challenges” like Binderup and Suarez’s. In January, the U.S. Solicitor General’s office filed a petition for writ of certiorari, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal from the Third Circuit’s decision.

The Law Center’s Brief: We filed an amicus brief in support of the Solicitor General’s petition for certiorari. Our brief explains that the Third Circuit’s ruling invalidates § 922(g)(1) in many of its applications, and will allow dangerous felons to acquire firearms, contravening Congress’s intent to prohibit all criminals who committed crimes with at least the specified maximum sentence from acquiring firearms. We also argue that the Third Circuit’s decision will create administrative burdens that undermine the efficacy of § 922(g)(1). Further, we explain that the Third Circuit’s opinion directly conflicts with the Supreme Court’s statement in Heller that it was not intending to disturb longstanding laws prohibiting gun possession by felons. Finally, we explain that the Supreme Court’s intervention is necessary because there is a division in the federal appellate courts on the permissibility of as-applied challenges to § 922(g)(1).

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

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

Photograph: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

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, the second we have filed in this case, 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.

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