Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Three Judicial Rulings On Firearms Issues Tuesday

Normally I try to be focused on one topic in my blog posts, but it's been a busy 24 hours for commonsense judicial rulings regarding gun regulation.  Namely, there have been three judiciary decisions of note.

FIRST:  A win for our side.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles in D.C., and a ban on high-capacity ammo magazines.  As stated in the ruling (LINK) (each paragraph below is taken from different parts of the document):

We hold the District had the authority under D.C. law to promulgate the challenged gun laws, and we uphold as constitutional the prohibitions of assault weapons and of large-capacity magazines and some of the registration requirements.

The Committee on Public Safety received evidence that assault weapons are not useful for the purposes of sporting or self-defense, but rather are “military-style” weapons designed for offensive use. See generally Testimony of Brian J. Siebel, Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence (Oct. 1, 2008). The Committee concluded assault weapons “have no legitimate use as self-defense weapons, and would in fact increase the danger to law-abiding users and innocent bystanders if kept in the home or used in self-defense situations."

The District likewise contends magazines holding more than ten rounds are disproportionately involved in the murder of law enforcement officers and in mass shootings, and have little value for self-defense or sport. It cites the Siebel testimony, which relies upon a report of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) stating that semi-automatic rifles with large-capacity magazines are not suitable for sporting purposes.

I couldn't agree more.  It sets an important precedent for federal law. 

SECOND:  Another win for our side.  A federal court in Lubbock, Texas, ruled against the NRA in their attempt to lower the legal age to purchase handguns from gun dealers from 21 to 18.  From the ARTICLE:
Thursday the judge ruled that federal restrictions on gun sales to young person are in fact reasonable and constitutional.  Quoting from previous case law the judge ruled, "The Constitution permits legislators to 'draw lines on the basis of age when they have a rational basis for doing so at a class-based level."
Thursday's ruling also says,

Congress identified a legitimate state interest—public safety and passed legislation that is rationally related to addressing that issue.

And what is that "legitimate state interest -- public safety" referring to?  It's no doubt referring to the fact that ages 18-20 are PRIME age for gun deaths.  Gun-related deaths by homicide and suicide are the number 2 and 3 causes of death in that age range, not too far behind unintentional deaths (where 0.8% were due to firearms).  Firearms were used for 84.1% of homicides and 45.6% of suicides (according to CDC WISQARS data for 2008, the last year available).  Of the 10,658 reported total deaths, firearms led to 2257 deaths, or about 21.2%.

Compare that to the age range between 21-30, where firearms led to 17.5% of deaths.  The next age range, between 31-40, drops even further, to 9.2%.

Similar trends hold for these age ranges for violent crime, as well.

THIRD:  A draw.  The Supreme Court refused to hear a case regarding the constitutionality of concealed carry of firearms without a permit (ARTICLE).  It turned down the appeal of a Maryland man who had been charged with carrying a concealed firearm without a permit, caught while supposedly transferring his weapon between homes.   From the article:

Maryland countered that the Supreme Court made clear in its 2008 decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, that its holding would not undercut the enforcement of reasonable restrictions on guns. Maryland’s permit requirements were reasonable restrictions, the state argued.

And here is the noted statement from the DC v. Heller opinion:

Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose:  For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues.

Based on that statement, I'm rather disappointed the court didn't hear the case.  They didn't say so far why they refused the case.  Could it be because the court leans toward the conservative side?


  1. The gun-rights folks are rightfully worried. if this is what happens with a cooperating (with them) President and a Supreme Court weighed towards their side, they're in big trouble when things change.

  2. I wouldn't suggest getting too exited about your two and three cases. One is a legitimately significant win for your side. I would classify that as our worst loss to date, because it's a Circuit Court ruling, and to top it off the DC Circuit Court, which is arguably the most important.

    Two was a District Court ruling. It's possible the fifth circuit will rule differently. For a few reasons, I'm not sure the Jennings case in Texas is well considered, mostly because 18-21 year olds can possess firearms under Texas law and under federal law, they just can't purchase them from an FFL. The District Court, in this case, latched on to this fact in the ruling, and suggested it's a "commercial qualification" that are among the regulations that are "presumptively constitutional" under Heller. To be sure there are reasonable constitutional arguments that could be made for restricting Second Amendment rights to those under 21 years of age, but I don't think Judge Cummings' rationale is correct.

    Your third case, I wouldn't really read anything into. There are a lot of potential reasons the Supreme Court decides not to hear a case. The Williams case certainly wouldn't be my choice for the Court considering a carry case, as it's a criminal case, and involves ancillary issues I would not want the Court to have to consider. To be sure, I believe the Maryland Supreme Court got it wrong, it's clear there's a right to carry in the Heller decision, but there are plenty of other carry cases coming forward that might look more attractive to the Court, and that wouldn't involve someone challenging the law based on a criminal conviction.

  3. The gun-rights folks are rightfully worried. if this is what happens with a cooperating (with them) President and a Supreme Court weighed towards their side, they're in big trouble when things change.

    I don't make any suggestions otherwise. The Second Amendment is one vote on the Supreme Court away from being erased from the Constitution and rendered meaningless. They don't even have to overturn Heller and McDonald, just decide in future cases not to expand the right beyond the ability to have a gun in your home, even though state courts have tended to overwhelmingly reject that notion when interpreting their own RKBA provisions, and is out of line with the text, which states "keep and bear."

    That's why despite your side's prattling about NRA paranoia in regards to Obama, gun owners are intent on getting him out. If he replaces any of the Heller five, the Second Amendment is finished. You're correct to suggest we're scared. I certainly am. But you can't suggest that, and then out of the other side of your mouth tell us we're nuts for opposing a second term for President Obama. If Kagan turns around and surprises us, I'll eat my words here, but I'm not holding my breath.

  4. That's a good point, Sebastian. But that's not what people mean when they say Obama will take their guns away in the second term. The real danger of Obama to you guys is what you said that he may have the opportunity to change the balance on the Supreme Court. That video going around in which La Pierre talks about the "conspiracy," is not talking about the same thing you are. You make sense he and all his followers do not.

  5. LaPierre uses the rhetoric that NRA members and gun owners NRA reaches pay attention to. I am not a showman, salesman, nor a very good organizer. It's very difficult to reach people with calm reason. It's much easier to reach people by scaring them. That's partly why I'm not a very good organizer. I'm not good at over-the-top, and you have to be in order to be effective.

    That's not just true of the gun issue, it's true for any issue where you're trying to organize people. For instance, in Pennsylvania, there's a bill that's designed to make abortion clinics comply with the same health standards other out-patient care facilities are required to comply with. What prompted this is was the Kermit Gosnell case, where the guy killed a woman through unsanitary conditions in his horror story of a clinic.

    I'm pretty strongly pro-choice, and even I think it's reasonable for clinics to have to comply with public health codes for out-patient medical facilities, provided those standards aren't more severe. But the way the pro-choice groups are treating this, if they allow the law to pass, it'll be coat hangers in back alleys before you know it. Do I think that's silly? Sure. Do I understand why they are using those kinds of tactics? Sure I do. And they'll oppose the bill, no matter how reasonable it might seem, because the pro-life groups are backing it, and they don't want to give them a victory.

    That's just how this game works. Doesn't matter what side you're on.