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 Policies

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.

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

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.

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.


Vt. Sportsmen’s Clubs v. Birmingham: Fighting for Vermont’s Lifesaving New Gun Safety Laws

Case Information: Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, et al. v. Birmingham, et al. (Vt. Super. Ct. amicus brief filed July 24, 2018).

At Issue: Vermont enacted a package of lifesaving and publicly supported gun safety measures after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. One of these critical new laws is S.55, which restricts access to the large-capacity ammunition magazines (LCMs) used in mass shootings from Sandy Hook to Las Vegas and countless other tragedies. Republican Governor Scott signed the bill shortly after the Vermont State Police stopped a would-be mass shooter from carrying out a school shooting at Fair Haven High School. The plaintiffs in this lawsuit argue that S.55 violates Article 16 of the Vermont Constitution.

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: We partnered with the Vermont Medical Society and GunSense Vermont on an amicus brief urging Vermont’s Superior Court to reject the meritless, gun-lobby backed challenge to S.55. Our amicus brief argues that Plaintiffs’ claims fail as a matter of law because LCMs pose an unjustifiable risk to public health and safety and Vermont’s magazine restrictions are wholly consistent with established precedent interpreting Article 16.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Read our press release about our amicus brief here.



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

Update — On June 28, 2018, the California Supreme Court issued a favorable decision rejecting the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s challenge to California’s microstamping law, siding with the position Giffords Law Center argued for in our amicus brief.

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.

Malpasso v. Pallozzi: Defending Maryland’s Strong Public Carry Regulations

Case Information: Malpasso v. Pallozzi, No. 18-cv-01064 (D. Md. brief filed June 18, 2018).

At Issue: This case involves a Second Amendment challenge to Maryland’s concealed carry laws, which require applicants for permits to carry loaded, concealed handguns in public to demonstrate a “good and substantial reason” for obtaining a permit. Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit claiming that this good-reason standard violates the Second Amendment—taking the extreme position that Maryland cannot authorize its law enforcement officers to protect public safety by enforcing meaningful public carry regulations.

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: Our brief argues that this Second Amendment challenge is foreclosed by binding Fourth Circuit precedent (Woollard v. Gallagher, 712 F.3d 865 (4th Cir. 2013)). In addition, since Woollard was decided in 2013, compelling new empirical evidence has confirmed the challenged law’s constitutionality and the need for states to adopt discretionary permitting standards to protect public safety. No current or 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.

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

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.