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 Centerjoined 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.
Case Information: Tyler v. Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Dep’t, No. 13-1876 (6th Cir. Brief Filed Aug. 19, 2015)
At issue: This case presents an as-applied challenge to the federal statute that prohibits firearm possession for individuals who have been involuntary committed to a mental institution. The plaintiff, Clifford Tyler, had been involuntarily committed to a mental institution in the 1980s, but had a clean record and bill of health since that time and argued that the statute, as applied to him, violated the Second Amendment. The Sixth Circuit agreed with this argument and, in doing so, became the first federal court of appeals to generally endorse strict scrutiny as the appropriate level of review for Second Amendment challenges. This case has important implications for how courts around the country analyze laws designed to reduce gun crime and violence.
The Law Center’s Brief: Our brief argues that the Sixth Circuit was wrong in its general conclusion that strict scrutiny should be the default level of review for Second Amendment cases. As the harshest level of review available, strict scrutiny is inappropriate in the context of firearms regulations that have been proven to save lives. If any heightened scrutiny is in fact mandated by the Second Amendment, intermediate scrutiny is the more appropriate level of review. Our brief argues that it is not true that laws that burden fundamental rights automatically trigger strict scrutiny and that several of the factors relied on in applying strict scrutiny in other contexts are not present in the Second Amendment arena. Unlike other constitutional rights, the exercise of Second Amendment rights inherently increase the risk of injury and death to others. Moreover, the Heller court itself implicitly rejected strict scrutiny when it classified several categories of laws, such as felon-in-possession laws, as “presumptively valid.”
Case Information: Mance v. Lynch, No. 15-10311 (5th Cir. Brief Filed July 20, 2015)
At Issue: Plaintiffs in this case argue that the federal laws requiring out-of-state handgun purchases to be completed through an in-state federal firearms licensee (“FFL”) violate the Second Amendment. In other words, the challenged laws require a person wishing to buy a handgun in another state to have the purchase completed by an FFL that operates in their state of residence. Plaintiffs in this case are residents of the District of Columbia and wanted to purchase a firearm in Texas, but did not do so because of the extra costs associated with the in-state FFL requirement. The district court for the Northern District of Texas found that this requirement unduly restricts access to firearm markets and therefore violates the Second Amendment. The case is now on appeal before the Fifth Circuit.
The Law Center’s Brief: Our amicus brief argues that the challenged federal laws are compatible with the Second Amendment because they place such a small burden on a citizen’s ability to keep a firearm in the home for self-defense. The brief argues that laws imposing background checks and regulating large capacity ammunition magazines are “presumptively lawful” and not protected at all by the Second Amendment. Even if these regulations implicate the Second Amendment, both provisions survive constitutional scrutiny because they are reasonably related to the important governmental objective of protecting public safety and the safety of law enforcement officers.
Case Information: Rocky Mountain Gun Owners v. Hickenlooper, No. 2014-CA-002178, (Colo. Ct. App. Brief Filed June 16, 2015)
At Issue: In this state court case, plaintiffs are challenging the constitutionality of Colorado laws, enacted in 2013, that, among other things, generally prohibit large capacity ammunition magazines (defined as magazines which can hold more than 15 rounds). Plaintiffs argue that these laws violate the Colorado State Constitution’s right to bear arms provision, which states that “[t]he right of no person to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property . . . shall be called in question.” The district court upheld the laws, finding them to be a “reasonable” exercise of the state’s police power, specifically designed to protect public safety. The case is now on appeal with the Colorado State Court of Appeals.
The Law Center’s Brief: Our brief makes the argument that large capacity ammunition magazines are not “arms,” and therefore are not protected by the right to bear arms provision contained at Article II § 13 of the Colorado Constitution. The brief argues that large capacity ammunition magazines are non-essential accessories that are not required to operate the vast majority of firearms. Moreover, these magazines are disproportionately used in mass shootings and attacks on police officers and their use is associated with a large increase in the number of people injured and killed in a shooting.
Case Information: Colorado Outfitters, et al. v. Hickenlooper, et al., No. 14-1290 (10th Cir. Brief Filed Apr. 29, 2015)
At Issue: In this case, plaintiffs are challenging the constitutionality of Colorado laws, enacted in 2013, that require background checks for private firearm sales and transfers and that prohibit large capacity ammunition magazines (defined as magazines which can hold more than 15 rounds). These laws were upheld in their entirety by the district court and plaintiffs have appealed the case to the Tenth Circuit.
The Law Center’s Brief: Our amicus brief argues that these laws are compatible with the Second Amendment because they place such a small burden on a citizen’s ability to keep a firearm in the home for self-defense. The brief argues that laws imposing background checks and regulating large capacity ammunition magazines are “presumptively lawful” and not protected at all by the Second Amendment. Even if these regulations implicate the Second Amendment, both provisions survive constitutional scrutiny because they are reasonably related to the important governmental objective of protecting public safety and the safety of law enforcement officers.
Case Information:Friedman, et al. v. City of Highland Park, et al., No. 14-3091 (7th Cir. Brief Filed Dec. 10, 2014)
At Issue: Gun lobby plaintiffs brought this challenge to an ordinance passed by the City of Highland Park, Illinois in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, which prohibits the possession, sale, or manufacture of assault weapons and large capacity magazines (defined as magazines able to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition). The district court upheld the ordinance, finding it to have a “close fit” with the “stated objective of providing for the protection and safety of its inhabitants.” Plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Seventh Circuit.
The Law Center’s Brief: Our amicus brief, joined by the City of Chicago and the Cook County State’s Attorney, argues that the Second Amendment, as interpreted by the Supreme Court and other courts, does not protect a right to own weapons that are designed for a battlefield and are unsuited for lawful self-defense in the home. The brief notes that every court to have considered challenges to laws banning assault weapons or large capacity magazines since the Supreme Court’s decisions in Heller and McDonaldhas upheld those laws. The brief argues in the alternative that, even if the Second Amendment does protect these dangerous weapons, their regulation is still constitutional under intermediate review, which is the only appropriate level of judicial review in this context and simply requires that a law be “reasonably related” to an “important” government interest. There is no question that the challenged law passes this test.
Today, the Ninth Circuit agreed to rehear Peruta v. San Diego, a dangerous decision that struck down San Diego County’s application of the state’s “good cause” requirement for concealed carry permits. This very encouraging news comes on the heels of a string of recent court victories for smart gun laws, including decisions on a large capacity magazine ban in Sunnyvale and California’s Unsafe Handgun Act.
Peruta is an especially high-profile case that has the potential to influence gun policy across the country. At issue is whether requiring permit applicants to demonstrate a specific need to carry a loaded, hidden weapon in public violates the Second Amendment. The two-judge majority in Peruta struck down that requirement, but the decision was contrary to the rulings of several other circuit courts nationwide and, if allowed to stand, would seriously jeopardize public safety in California.
Today’s news demonstrates yet again that the gun lobby is on the run when it comes to Second Amendment litigation. These victories combined with last year’s landmark background checks ballot initiative in Washington State and the slew of smart gun laws being introduced in state legislatures across the countryshows that in spite of federal inaction, Americans are willing to fight for the sensible gun legislation that save lives.
Over the past four years, our nation’s courts have become a major battleground in the debate about gun violence in our communities. Right now, people who want to carry loaded firearms on public streets are forcing judges across the country to question the scope of the Second Amendment. But where should judges turn for guidance in evaluating these claims? The Supreme Court’s landmark Heller decision in 2008 effectively upended the legal understanding of the Second Amendment that had existed for almost eighty years. When it comes to gun litigation, courts are now having to evaluate how to keep our communities safe with little Second Amendment case law to guide them.
The Law Center is helping to fill that void through amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs in significant Second Amendment cases across the country. Because we are the only organization in the country that tracks Second Amendment litigation, national, state, and local firearms laws, and pending firearms legislation nationwide, we have unique expertise that can help courts understand the critical importance of smart laws to prevent gun violence. Through amicus briefs, we can present that expertise to courts shaping the meaning of the Second Amendment.
Amicus briefs enable us to get involved in precedent-setting cases that have nationwide significance, since numerous challenges to similar gun laws are currently pending before courts across the country. We recently filed an amicus brief in the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Hightower v. Boston, in which we argued that a Massachusetts law requiring a license to carry a concealed weapon in public does not violate the Second Amendment. When the court issued its decision upholding the law on August 30th, it became the first federal appellate court in the nation to issue a decision on a Second Amendment challenge to a concealed carry law. Six other federal appellate courts are currently facing similar challenges. Continue reading →
Case Information:Pizzo v. City and County of San Francisco, No. 09-cv-04493-CW (N.D. Cal. Filed July 9, 2012)
At Issue: Challenging California’s concealed carry “good cause” provision. This lawsuit challenges the “good cause” provision contained in California’s concealed carry statute. Under California law, an applicant for a concealed carry permit may only receive a permit if he or she has demonstrated good cause to carry a concealed firearm. Plaintiff argues that this provision violates the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Law Center’s Brief: Our brief, filed in support of California’s discretionary concealed carry law, argues that California’s statutory provisions do not fall within the scope of the Second Amendment as it has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court.