Mance v. Lynch: Amicus Brief Defending Federal In-State FFL Requirement for Handgun Sales


Update On January 19, 2018, the Fifth Circuit issued a favorable decision siding with the position Giffords Law Center advocated for in our amicus brief. The court upheld the federal law prohibiting handgun sales to out-of-state residents, finding that “there is a compelling government interest in preventing circumvention of the handgun laws of various states.” The Fifth Circuit panel was made up of three judges who were appointed to that court by President George W. Bush.

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.

Giffords 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.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.


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


Update — On January 5, 2018, the Sixth Circuit issued a favorable decision upholding the federal law that prohibits gun possession by domestic violence misdemeanants. The majority opinion approvingly cited evidence and arguments from Giffords Law Center’s amicus brief (filed as the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence). See Stimmel v. Sessions, No. 15-4196, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 213, at *19, *22 (6th Cir. Jan. 4, 2018).

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

At Issue: This case involves a 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 facial and as-applied constitutional challenges, and the case is now on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Giffords 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.

Glass v. Paxton: Opposing Guns on Campus Policies that Violate Professors’ Right to Academic Freedom

Case InformationGlass et al. v. Paxton et al., No. 17-50641 (5th Circuit brief filed Nov. 20, 2017).

At Issue: In 2016, responding to a newly enacted Texas law, the University of Texas prohibited its faculty from excluding concealed handguns from their classes and from discouraging students from bringing guns to class. The university’s new policy is overwhelmingly opposed by professors nationwide, who understand that the presence of guns harms students and faculty by limiting the educational choices professors may make when structuring classroom discussion to facilitate the free exchange of ideas. Plaintiffs in this lawsuit are University of Texas professors who argue that the statute and policy violates their First Amendment right to academic freedom. Their lawsuit was dismissed on grounds that the plaintiffs failed to adequately allege an injury, and the plaintiffs appealed that decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: We submitted a joint brief with the American Association of University Professors and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Our brief argues that the professors’ lawsuit should be reinstated because they adequately alleged an invasion of their First Amendment right to academic freedom. Specifically, the Texas law and University of Texas policy violates their right to academic freedom by depriving plaintiffs of the ability to set classroom policies prohibiting guns in accordance with their best educational judgment — a judgment that is amply supported by social science research and other empirical evidence. What’s more, by forbidding the plaintiffs from even discouraging students from bringing guns to class, the university’s policy censors plaintiffs from discussing an important public issue.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

NSSF v. State of California: Defending California’s Groundbreaking Handgun Microstamping Law

Case InformationNational Shooting Sports Foundation Inc. v.  State of California, No. S239397 (California Supreme Court brief filed Nov. 13, 2017).

At Issue: In 2007, California passed a law designed to reduce the number of unsolved gun crimes by requiring that new handgun models sold in the state include microstamping technology. Microstamping imprints a serial number onto shell casings when a shot is fired, and represents a significant improvement on traditional ballistic identification techniques. Unsurprisingly, law enforcement groups strongly support this revolutionary crime-solving tool. However, gun manufacturers have repeatedly opposed microstamping, first by attempting to block action by the California legislature, and then by refusing to sell new handgun models in the state. The latest volley by the gun industry came when an industry group filed litigation arguing that the microstamping law is invalid because it is infeasible for gunmakers to comply with it. In NSSF v. State of California, the California Supreme Court has taken up the narrow legal question of whether gun manufacturers may file suit against a duly-enacted product regulation by claiming compliance is “impossible” (NSSF’s lawsuit does not raise any broader constitutional claims).

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: Our brief argues that microstamping has been shown to be a feasible and reliable technology in empirical studies and live demonstrations before police officers. But even accepting NSSF’s baseless claim about the technology’s feasibility, the lawsuit must still be dismissed, because California’s microstamping law does not require gunmakers to do what they claim is impossible. Rather, the law merely bars introducing new handgun models in the state until gunmakers sufficiently develop microstamping technology and are able to implement it—which the evidence suggests is already easily possible. Our brief explains that the microstamping law is therefore consistent with a longstanding tradition of laws that require manufacturers to improve the safety or mitigate the environmental impact of a given product in order to have continued access to a state market. For instance, California leads the nation by setting emissions caps which carmakers must meet to sell vehicles in the state. Allowing NSSF’s unsupported “impossibility” claim would threaten the validity of such emissions standards, and many other commonplace consumer regulations that are essential to protecting public health and safety.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Duncan v. Becerra: Partnering With California Lieutenant Governor Newsom to Defend Prop. 63

Case Information: Duncan v. Becerra, No. 17-56081 (Ninth Circuit brief filed Oct. 19, 2017).

At Issue: Last November, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 63, a package of smart gun laws drafted by Giffords Law Center attorneys in partnership with California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. One of Prop. 63’s reforms closes a loophole in the state’s gun laws by prohibiting the possession of large capacity magazines (LCMs) capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. As Prop. 63’s effective date approached, gun lobby groups brought a constitutional challenge to the law, and persuaded a federal district judge to block implementation of the law’s LCM provisions pending a final decision on their challenge. The judge’s decision to block Prop. 63’s LCM provisions was an extreme departure from settled Second Amendment law, and the state immediately appealed the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom joined Giffords Law Center in submitting an amicus brief to the Ninth Circuit in support of Prop. 63. Our brief argued that the court should follow its own Second Amendment precedents, and the US Supreme Court’s decision in Heller, and allow Prop. 63’s LCM provisions to take effect. Our joint brief explained the critical need to close the LCM possession loophole and halt proliferation and use of military-grade magazines by criminals and mass shooters, including the shooter who recently used LCMs to murder 58 people in Las Vegas. Our brief argues that the Second Amendment plainly does not protect magazines that are unnecessary for self-defense and the favored tool of mass killers, and explains that the state of California has presented more than adequate evidence showing that the LCM restrictions will reduce the number of lives lost during mass shootings.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Rodriguez v. Florida: Opposing a Dangerous Expansion of “Stand Your Ground”

Case Information: Omar Rodriguez v. State of Florida, No. 3D17-1633 (Florida Court of Appeal brief filed Sept. 20, 2017).

At Issue: Florida’s “shoot first” Stand Your Ground law allows a person to use deadly force in public in self-defense, even if the person is safely able to avoid a confrontation by retreating. Florida’s extreme version of this law gained notoriety in 2012 after an unarmed 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin, was killed by a shooter who followed Martin through his own neighborhood, then claimed he needed to shoot the teen in self-defense. In 2017, Florida’s legislature passed an even more extreme amendment to Stand Your Ground: a “burden-shifting” law that would require prosecutors to prove at a pretrial hearing that a criminal defendant who shot someone is not entitled to immunity from prosecution. This reverses the existing procedure, where defendants who use deadly force need to make an initial showing that Stand Your Ground applies to them. Fortunately, a trial court struck down the dangerous amendment as violating the separation-of-powers doctrine. Supporters of the amendment recently appealed that decision to Florida’s intermediate appellate court.

The Law Center’s Brief: The Law Center filed a brief arguing that the trial court correctly determined that Florida’s extreme new amendments to the Stand Your Ground law are unconstitutional. The stakes are high: the 2017 amendment would require prosecutors to prove a negative, significantly expanding the universe of those who avoid prosecution after using lethal force, even if they did so recklessly or unnecessarily. As the Law Center’s brief argued, the amendment plainly violates the Florida constitution’s separation-of-powers provisions. The constitution allows the legislature to make substantive law, while specifically reserving to the judiciary the ability to make procedural rules for the courts. Because the legislature’s burden-shifting amendment usurped the core judicial function of setting court procedures, the amendment was unconstitutional and must be invalidated.

Read the full text of our brief in Rodriguez here.

Duncan v. Becerra and Wiese v. Becerra: Defending California’s Magazine Capacity Limits


Case Information: Duncan et al. v. Becerra, No. 17-1017 (Southern District of California brief filed June 5, 2017); and Wiese et al. v. Becerra, No. 17-cv-00903 (Eastern District of California brief filed June 23, 2017).

At Issue: Last November, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 63, a package of smart gun laws drafted by the Law Center in partnership with California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. One of Prop. 63’s reforms will close a loophole in the state’s gun laws, by generally prohibiting the possession of large capacity magazines (LCMs) capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. As Prop. 63’s effective date approached, gun lobby groups made a last-minute attempt to block implementation of the voter-approved measure, filing two lawsuits arguing that California’s LCM restrictions violate the Constitution.

The Law Center’s Briefs: We filed amicus briefs in both cases explaining the critical need to close the LCM possession loophole and halt proliferation and use of military-grade magazines by mass shooters and other criminals. We argue that the Second Amendment does not protect magazines that are unnecessary for self-defense and the favored tool of mass killers, including those who carried out the rampages at Sandy Hook and Pulse nightclub. These shooters were able to murder more people because LCMs enable firing up to 100 bullets before it is necessary to reload—a critical pause when many rampage shooters are stopped. We explain that for this reason, LCMs are highly lethal accessories, not protected “arms,” but even if they are arms, the Second Amendment permits prohibiting them because there is overwhelming evidence that LCMs are “dangerous and unusual” and historically restricted, and best suited for military combat rather than civilian self-defense.

Read the full text of our brief in Duncan here.

Read the full text of our brief in Wiese here.

Bridgeville Rifle v. Small: Opposing Concealed Carry in Delaware Parks


Case Information: Bridgeville Rifle & Pistol Club v. Small, No. 15, 2017 (Delaware Supreme Court brief filed May 5, 2017).

At Issue: This case involves a challenge to firearm restrictions adopted by the Delaware agencies that oversee the state’s public parks and forests. Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit claiming that the agencies’ regulations violate the right to bear arms afforded by the Delaware constitution. They are seeking a court ruling forcing the agencies to allow concealed carry in the parks and forests they oversee. The lower court rejected plaintiffs’ constitutional challenge, and the case is now on appeal before the Delaware Supreme Court.

The Law Center’s Brief: Our brief argues that public recreational areas have long been considered sensitive places properly subject to increased regulation. We explain that Delaware agencies have a legitimate need to protect the safety of visitors to public parks and forests, including families with children, by prohibiting concealed carry. Further, we summarize the latest reputable research on the connection between carrying guns in public and crime, which overwhelmingly shows that relaxing concealed carry laws leads to more violent crime. No credible data supports the fanciful hypothesis, advanced by gun lobby lawyers and by a group of discredited researchers, that concealed carry has a crime-deterring effect.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Soto v. Bushmaster: Supporting the Sandy Hook Families

Assault Weapons

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.