Amicus Brief in Support of New York’s Ban on Assault Weapons and Large Capacity Ammunition Magazines

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Case information: New York State Rifle and Pistol Ass’n, et al. v. Cuomo, et al., No. 13-291 (2d Cir. amicus brief filed August 5, 2014)

At Issue:  This lawsuit, filed by a gun lobby group and a few individuals, challenges the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act, which was passed in direct response to the tragic elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  The shooter at Newtown used an assault weapon and multiple high capacity magazines to kill 26 people, including 20 children, in just five minutes.  The SAFE Act strengthened New York’s ban on these dangerous weapons and magazines by—among other things—broadening the definition of an assault weapon to include guns with characteristics that enable the firing of hundreds of bullets per minute, aid in the commission of mass murders and assaults, or facilitate the weapon’s concealment.  This lawsuit makes the radical claim that the Second Amendment protects a “right” to own assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines and that New York’s laws regulating these dangerous weapons are unconstitutional.  The vast majority of these provisions were upheld by the district court, and both parties have appealed the case to the Second Circuit.

The Law Center’s Brief: Our Second Circuit brief, joined by New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, argues that the Second Amendment, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, does not protect a right to own weapons that are designed for a battlefield and have no connection to lawful self-defense in the home.  The brief emphasizes the fact that every court which has considered challenges to laws banning assault weapons or high capacity magazines since the Supreme Court’s landmark 2008 decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, has upheld those laws.  Finally, the brief argues that even if the Second Amendment does protect these dangerous weapons, their regulation is still constitutional under intermediate scrutiny—the level of review overwhelming applied to Second Amendment claims—because such regulation is reasonably related to New York’s important interest in protecting public safety and reducing crime.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Victory in the Courts: New York’s New Gun Law Largely Upheld By Federal District Judge

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2013 began with New York passing a comprehensive upgrade of its already strong gun laws in response to the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  And, a few days ago, 2013 ended with an incredible victory for smart gun laws, as a federal court largely upheld New York’s new law and rejected a lawsuit from the gun lobby.

The NY Secure Ammunition & Firearms Enforcement Act (known as the “NY SAFE Act”), strengthened many aspects of New York’s gun laws, including its bans on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines.  The gun lobby predictably responded to their own failure to stop this law in the legislature with a lawsuit against the state of New York alleging–among other things–that the bans on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines violate the Second Amendment.  The Law Center and our allies responded by filing an amicus brief supporting the law and arguing that the law is consistent with the Second Amendment and the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller.

In a decision released just last week, the court agreed, and upheld the ban on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines.  After citing conflicting evidence, the court declined to decide whether assault weapons or large capacity ammunition magazines are in “common use,” a gun-lobby argument that claims that because assault weapons and large capacity magazines are allegedly prevalent that they are therefore protected by the Second Amendment under the Heller decision.  Instead, the court found that, whether or not these weapons are in common use, bans on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines don’t prohibit gun owners from exercising their Second Amendment rights.  The court went on to hold that the bans on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines were reasonably related to the state’s interest in protecting public safety given the widespread use of these weapons and magazines in mass shootings. Thus, the court upheld these restrictions.

Although the court did strike down a part of New York’s new gun safety law which prohibited a gun owner from loading more than seven rounds into a magazine at one time, the court’s rejection of the gun lobby’s main claims and their radical theories about the Second Amendment’s scope is a great victory for advocates of smart gun laws, that will surely have reverberations in similar cases pending in Connecticut, Maryland, Colorado, and California.1

For more, read some of the recent gun violence prevention success stories.

 

Notes
  1. The court also rejected most of the plaintiffs’ other challenges to the law, including claims that several provisions of the law were overly vague. However, it did strike down a provision banning semi-automatic rifles with “muzzle breaks” as overly vague since the legislation inadvertently failed to use the correct term, “muzzle brake.” A muzzle brake helps to prevent recoil and upward movement of the barrel of a gun during rapid fire. The court also struck down a provision prohibiting semi-automatic handguns that are “semi-automatic versions” of fully automatic firearms because it did not give sufficient notice of what specific kinds of guns were prohibited.

Amicus Brief in Challenge to Connecticut’s Assault Weapons Ban

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Case information: Shew, et al. v. Malloy, et al., No. 13-00739 (D. Conn., complaint filed May 22, 2013)

At Issue: Challenging the constitutionality of Connecticut’s Post-Newtown Assault Weapon and Large Capacity Magazine Ban This lawsuit, filed by a gun lobby group and a few individuals, challenges the Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety Act (“the Act”), which was passed in direct response to the tragic elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  The shooter at Newtown used an assault weapon and multiple large capacity magazines to kill 26 people, including 20 children, in just five minutes.  The Act strengthened Connecticut’s ban on these dangerous weapons by–among other things–broadening the definition of an assault weapon to include guns with characteristics that enable the firing of hundreds of bullets per minute, aid in the commission of mass murders and assaults, or facilitate the weapon’s concealment.  The Act also banned the possession of large capacity ammunition magazines, which allow mass shooters to file dozens and dozens of bullets without pausing to reload.  This lawsuit makes the radical claim that the Second Amendment protects a “right” to own assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines and that Connecticut’s laws regulating these dangerous weapons (including the Act) are unconstitutional.

The Law Center’s Brief: Our brief, joined by Connecticut Against Gun ViolenceMoms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and Cleveland School Remembers, 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 have no connection to lawful self-defense in the home.  Indeed, every court to have considered challenges to laws banning assault weapons or high capacity magazines since the Supreme Court’s decisions in Heller and McDonald has upheld those laws, including the conservative D.C. Circuit.  The Law Center recently filed a similar brief in a case challenging New York’s assault weapon and large capacity ammunition magazine ban.

Download a copy of the brief here.

Amicus Brief in Challenge to New York’s Assault Weapons Ban

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Case information: New York State Rifle and Pistol Ass’n, et al. v. Cuomo, et al., No. 13-cv-00291-WMS (W.D.N.Y., complaint filed March 21, 2013)

At Issue:  Challenging the constitutionality of New York’s Post-Newtown Assault Weapon and High Capacity Magazine Ban.   This lawsuit, filed by a gun lobby group and a few individuals, challenges the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act, which was passed in direct response to the tragic elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  The shooter at Newtown used an assault weapon and multiple high capacity magazines to kill 26 people, including 20 children, in just five minutes.  The SAFE Act strengthened New York’s ban on these dangerous weapons and magazines by–among other things–broadening the definition of an assault weapon to include guns with characteristics that enable the firing of hundreds of bullets per minute, aid in the commission of mass murders and assaults, or facilitate the weapon’s concealment.  This lawsuit makes the radical claim that the Second Amendment protects a “right” to own assault weapons and high capacity magazines and that New York’s laws regulating these dangerous weapons (including the SAFE Act) are unconstitutional.

The Law Center’s Brief:  Our brief, joined by New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, 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 have no connection to lawful self-defense in the home.  Indeed, every court to have considered challenges to laws banning assault weapons or high capacity magazines since the Supreme Court’s decisions in Heller and McDonald has upheld those laws, including the conservative D.C. Circuit.

Download a copy of the brief here.

Federal Appeals Court Upholds New York’s Concealed Handgun Licensing Law

Brett A. Clark/The Daily Advance

Around the country, courts are confronting a critical question: whether the Second Amendment requires states to issue concealed handgun licenses to virtually anyone who wants one.

This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit addressed that question, holding that New York’s requirement that concealed carry applicants show “a special need for self-protection” does not violate the Second Amendment.  In Kachalsky v. Cacace, the court explained that the requirement of a showing of need is substantially related to the government’s important interests in preventing crime and guaranteeing public safety.  The court found that the requirement is consistent with gun regulation that has existed since the nation’s founding, noting, “[t]here is a longstanding tradition of states regulating firearm possession and use in public because of the dangers posed to public safety.”  New York has required a showing of need for carrying a concealed weapon for 100 years.

While many states issue a concealed handgun license to virtually anyone who applies, states like California and New York require an applicant to show a legitimate need to carry a gun in public, usually by presenting documentation of a real threat to the applicant’s safety.  Those requirements are now under attack in a number of Second Amendment lawsuits nationwide brought by individuals who have no legitimate need to carry guns in public places.

Thankfully, the courts are standing up for the safety of their citizens and protecting the laws that work to reduce the violence that plagues their communities. For more this trend, read our publication, The Second Amendment Battleground: Victories in the Courts and Why They Matter.

To find out more about this case, read the decision in Kachalsky v. Cacace.

Want more? Check out the other recent success stories.

NYSBA Journal Includes Our Guide to Strengthening Gun Laws in New York

The New York State Bar Association devoted the summer 2012 issue of its Government, Law and Policy Journal to an in-depth discussion of gun laws, public health, and public safety, and invited the Law Center, as well as other gun violence prevention organizations, public health experts, elected officials, and scholars, to contribute to the conversation. We are pleased to share our contribution, which analyzes the current laws on the books in New York.

Our article, entitled “Regulating Guns in New York: Existing State Laws and How They Could Be Strengthened,” focuses on six key legislative approaches to preventing gun violence that New York should adopt. For each approach, the article details New York’s existing law, or lack thereof, recommends how the law should be changed, and presents examples of relevant existing laws in other states and New York City.

Recent polling confirms that a strong majority of New Yorkers support limiting the number of handguns an individual can buy to one a month and strengthening the state’s laws regulating firearm sales, two of the critical issues that we discuss in our article.

This article is reprinted with permission from Government, Law and Policy Journal, Summer 2012, Vol. 14, No. 1, published by the New York State Bar Association, One Elk Street, Albany, NY 12207.