Maryland Shall Issue v. Hogan: Supporting Laws Banning Bump Stocks and Trigger Activators

Update — On November 16, 2018, the district court issued a favorable decision rejecting plaintiffs’ constitutional challenges to Maryland’s trigger activator ban, and upholding the law in full. The court’s opinion cited evidence and arguments from Giffords Law Center’s amicus brief.

Case Information: Maryland Shall Issue Inc. v. Hogan (D. Md. amicus brief filed July 27, 2018).

At Issue: On October 1, 2017, a gunman armed with AR-15 assault rifles modified with “bump stocks” unleashed a torrent of gunfire on a crowd of concert-goers in Las Vegas, Nevada, killing 58 people, hitting 422 with gunshots, and injuring a total of 851 people. This horrifying event, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, was enabled by the shooter’s use of bump stocks to evade federal restrictions on automatic weapons. After the federal government failed to act quickly to close the loophole, Maryland enacted a law prohibiting the possession and sale of bump stocks and other rapid fire trigger activators within the state. After the governor signed the lifesaving legislation, plaintiffs filed this lawsuit arguing that Maryland’s bump stock ban constitutes a government “taking” of their property in violation of the Takings Clause of the Constitution.

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: Our amicus brief argues that plaintiffs’ unsupported argument is foreclosed by Supreme Court precedent demonstrating that governments may use their police powers to restrict the possession and use of dangerous products without violating the Takings Clause. By regulating trigger activators, Maryland has not engaged in an unlawful “taking,” but has simply closed a loophole which allowed for a contravention of legitimate restrictions on automatic firearms, which are historically longstanding and have been repeatedly upheld as constitutional. Therefore, Maryland’s exercise of its police power in restricting the possession and use of trigger activators does not implicate the Takings Clause at all.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Gould v. O’Leary: Advocating Strong Standards for Concealed Carry Permits in Massachusetts

Update — On November 2, 2018, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit issued a favorable decision upholding Massachusetts’ concealed carry law, siding with the position Giffords Law Center argued for in our amicus brief.

Case InformationGould v. O’Leary, No. 17-2202 (1st Cir. brief filed June 13, 2018).

At Issue: This case involves a Second Amendment challenge to Massachusetts’ concealed carry regulations and the permitting standards implemented by law enforcement agencies in Boston and Brookline. The challenged policies require applicants to demonstrate a “proper purpose” to carry concealed guns in public in order to receive an unrestricted concealed carry permit, as opposed to a permit that is restricted to sport shooting or carrying a gun in the scope of one’s employment. Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit claiming that this proper-purpose standard violates the Second Amendment—taking the extreme position that unrestricted permits should be issued to applicants who do not meet the standard.

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: Our brief argues that Massachusetts’ concealed carry regulations comport with the Second Amendment because they are consistent with longstanding public carry restrictions dating back to the Founding and earlier. 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 increased violent crime and homicide. No credible data supports the weak hypothesis, advanced by gun lobby lawyers and by some discredited researchers, that concealed carry has a crime-deterring effect.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs v. Grewal: Defending N.J.’s Large-Capacity Magazine Restrictions

Case Information: Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, Inc., et al. v. Grewal, et al., No. No. 18-3170 (3d Cir. amicus brief filed Oct. 31, 2018).

At Issue: In 2018, following a series of devastating mass shootings across the nation, New Jersey enacted AB 2761, which generally prohibits the possession of large-capacity magazines (LCMs) holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. AB 2761 strengthens existing law in New Jersey, which allowed possession of magazines holding up to 15 rounds. However, the same day it was signed into law, gun lobby groups brought a legal challenge to it, arguing that the new 10-round magazine capacity limit violates the Second Amendment. If the challengers’ extreme arguments were accepted, it would support the idea that any restrictions on the possession of military-style firearms and accessories are unconstitutional.

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: We filed an amicus brief in support of New Jersey’s law that explains the critical need to halt proliferation and use of military-grade LCMs by mass shooters and other criminals. Giffords Law Center’s amicus brief argues that the Second Amendment allows prohibiting magazines that are unnecessary for self-defense and the favored tool of mass killers. We argue that New Jersey’s law survives the applicable standard of constitutional review because it is likely to reduce bloodshed during gun massacres by forcing shooters to reload more often and will also deter criminals from obtaining LCMs.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Love v. State of Florida: Opposing a Dangerous and Unconstitutional “Stand Your Ground” Amendment

Case InformationTashara Love v. State of Florida, No. SC18-747 (Florida Supreme Court brief filed Oct. 29, 2018).

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 can safely retreat. Florida’s extreme version of this law facilitated the shooting of an unarmed 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin, who was killed when a shooter followed the teen through his own neighborhood, then claimed he needed to shoot Martin in self-defense. In 2017, the Florida legislature passed an even more extreme modification to Stand Your Ground: a “burden-shifting” amendment that would require prosecutors to prove at a pretrial hearing that a defendant who shot someone is not entitled to immunity from prosecution. This reverses the existing procedure, where people who use deadly force need to make an initial showing that Stand Your Ground applies to them. The Florida Supreme Court is now considering the constitutionality of this burden-shifting amendment.

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: Giffords Law Center’s amicus brief argues that the burden-shifting amendment is unconstitutional and violates separation-of-powers principles (principles that fully resolve the Love case but which neither party addressed). Florida’s Constitution gives courts the exclusive power to adopt procedural rules, and the legislature may not take over that function. However, in violation of the state constitution, the legislature passed a 2017 amendment that directly conflicts with rules the state Supreme Court previously announced to implement the intent of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. In addition to explaining how the burden-shifting amendment usurps the core judicial function of setting court procedures, our brief presents credible research showing that states with Stand Your Ground laws experience increased gun violence, including homicides, and that these laws disparately impact people of color. Shifting the burden of proof away from defendants who use deadly force will exacerbate these unacceptable public safety risks in Florida.

Read the full text of our brief in Love here.

Ohioans for Concealed Carry v. City of Columbus: Defending Local Bump Stock Regulations

Case Information: Ohioans for Concealed Carry et. al. v. City of Columbus et. al., No. 18-AP-00605 (Ohio Ct. App. brief filed Oct. 1, 2018).

At Issue: On October 1st, 2017, a gunman in Las Vegas committed the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, killing 58 people and wounding an additional 489. A major contributor to the scale of this attack was the gunman’s use of bump stocks. Bump stocks are accessories that, when attached to a semiautomatic rifle, greatly increase the rate of fire possible with that weapon. In May 2018, responding to a series of high-fatality mass shootings, the city of Columbus, Ohio passed an ordinance prohibiting bump stocks. A month later, the ordinance was challenged by Ohioans for Concealed Carry, and a judge ruled that Columbus could not regulate bump stocks because they are firearm components and thus fall within Ohio’s preemption statute. The case is now on appeal before the Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals.

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: Our brief argues that Columbus acted well within its authority to regulate bump stocks because these dangerous devices are accessories, not firearm components, which means the city’s regulation is not in conflict with state law. We show that bump stocks are consistently referred to as accessories across many authoritative sources, including bump stock manufacturers, the federal government, official statements to regulators, and local and national news articles. Additionally, we argue that the trial court’s definition of “component” was overbroad and erroneous, and that a better definition of “component” can be found in federal law (a definition that clearly would not apply to bump stocks).

Read the full text of our brief in Ohioans for Concealed Carry here.

Worman v. Healey: Defending Massachusetts’ Assault Weapons and Magazine Restrictions

Case information: Worman et al. v. Healey et al. (1st Cir. brief filed Sept 28, 2018).

At Issue: The state of Massachusetts has prohibited the sale, transfer or possession of assault weapons and large capacity magazines (“LCMs”) since 1998. Its law restricts civilian access to weapons of military origin that are ill-suited for self defense and frequently employed in mass shootings and attacks on law enforcement officers. Plaintiffs in this case bring Second Amendment and other constitutional challenges to Massachusetts’ law. The district court rejected their challenge and upheld the law on the grounds that neither assault weapons nor LCMs are protected by the Second Amendment. The case is now on appeal before the First Circuit.

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: Our brief argues that the challenged law regulates conduct that falls outside the scope of the Second Amendment because assault weapons and LCMs are “most useful in military service, dangerous, not typically possessed for lawful purposes, and not in ‘common use.’” We also argue that, in the alternative, even if this law does implicate the Second Amendment, it easily passes constitutional review under intermediate scrutiny (the appropriate level of review in this context).

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Young v. Hawaii: Urging the Ninth Circuit to Protect Strong Open Carry Regulations

Case Information: Young v. State of Hawaii, et al. (9th Cir. brief filed September 24, 2018).

At Issue: In July 2018, a divided three-judge Ninth Circuit panel struck down a Hawaii law providing that law enforcement can issue open-carry permits to people “engaged in the protection of life and property.” In concluding that the open carry regulation violated the Second Amendment, the panel majority incorrectly interpreted Hawaii’s law as “[r]estricting open carry to those whose job entails protecting life or property.” The panel majority further concluded—for the first time by any federal appellate court—that the right to carry a loaded, openly visible firearm in public is a “core” Second Amendment right, placing it on equal footing with the right to keep a handgun for self-defense in one’s home. This dangerous ruling is contrary to conclusions reached about similar laws in three other federal circuit courts, as well as the Ninth Circuit sitting en banc.

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: Our brief argues that because of serious factual and legal errors made by the panel majority, the Ninth Circuit should grant en banc reviewvacate the panel decision, and remand the case for application of binding circuit precedents. We argue that remand is appropriate because the panel’s failure to credit evidence about historical regulation of public carry is contrary to the approach used by the Supreme Court as the Ninth Circuit in prior opinions. En banc rehearing is warranted because the panel decision creates an irreconcilable conflict with the Second, Third, and Fourth Circuits on the exceptionally important issue of whether open carry is a “core” Second Amendment right.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Libertarian Party v. Cuomo: Defending New York’s Evidence-Backed Gun Safety Laws

Case Information: Libertarian Party of Erie County et al. v. Cuomo et al. (2d Cir. brief filed September 20, 2018).

At Issue:This case is about New York’s authority to address gun violence in its borders by enforcing meaningful standards for the possession and carrying of handguns. Plaintiffs challenge two regulations that help prevent dangerous, irresponsible people from misusing firearms: New York’s law requiring a license to possess a handgun and the standards the state applies to evaluate concealed carry permit applicants.  The district court dismissed both of these Second Amendment claims and the case is now on appeal before the Second Circuit.

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: Our brief argues that New York’s handgun licensing law is constitutional under the Second Amendment because it substantially furthers the state’s interest in preventing gun deaths and stopping the flow of illegal guns. Recent and reliable social science research shows that laws that require a license to purchase or possess handguns bolster public safety by dramatically reducing gun deaths and deterring gun trafficking by criminals. In addition, our brief argues that New York’s concealed carry regulations are constitutional because they are consistent with previous decisions upholding those laws and are supported by compelling social science evidence. 

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs v. Grewal: Defending N.J.’s Large-Capacity Magazine Restrictions

Update — On September 28, 2018, the district court issued a favorable decision rejecting the plaintiffs’ challenge to New Jersey’s LCM regulation, siding with the position Giffords Law Center argued for in our amicus brief.

Case Information: Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, Inc., et al. v. Grewal, et al. (D.N.J. amicus brief filed July 6, 2018).

At Issue: Gun lobby groups recently brought a legal challenge to New Jersey AB 2761, a law enacted in 2018 which generally prohibits the possession of large-capacity magazines (LCMs) holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. AB 2761 strengthens existing law in New Jersey, which allowed possession of magazines holding up to 15 rounds. However, gun lobby groups argue that the new 10-round magazine capacity limit violates the Second Amendment, advancing extreme arguments that would support the idea that any magazine limits are unconstitutional.

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: We filed an amicus brief in support of New Jersey’s law that explained the critical need to halt proliferation and use of military-grade LCMs by mass shooters and other criminals. Giffords Law Center’s amicus brief argues that the Second Amendment does not protect magazines that are unnecessary for self-defense and the favored tool of mass killers. Gunmen who perpetrated the deadliest mass shootings in US history have been able to murder more people by using LCMs that enable firing more bullets before it is necessary to reload—a critical pause when many rampage shooters are stopped.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Pena v. Lindley: Amicus Brief Defending California’s Unsafe Handgun Act

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Update — On August 3, 2018, the Ninth Circuit issued a favorable decision rejecting the challenge to California’s Unsafe Handgun Act, siding with the position Giffords Law Center argued for in our amicus brief.

Case InformationPena v. Lindley,  No. 15-15449 (9th Cir. Brief Filed Sept. 28, 2015)

At Issue: This case presents a Second Amendment challenge to the California Unsafe Handgun Act (“UHA”), which requires that all handguns must meet certain safety requirements before they may be sold within the State. The district court from the Eastern District of California rejected this challenge, noting that the UHA is a regulation on the commercial sale of arms and is therefore a “presumptively lawful” regulation falling outside the scope of the Second Amendment. The case is now on appeal before the Ninth Circuit.

The Law Center’s Brief: The Law Center’s brief addresses the importance of the Unsafe Handgun Act in keeping cheap and poorly made handguns off of the streets in California. The brief argues that the district court correctly concluded that the UHA law falls outside the scope of the Second Amendment, as it merely places a condition on the commercial sale of handguns and does not act as a prohibition. In the alternative, even if the UHA does burden conduct protected by the Second Amendment, it easily passes constitutional review under intermediate scrutiny, which is the appropriate level of review in this context, because of the minimal burden that the UHA imposes on the right to possess a firearm in the home for self-defense.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.