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.

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.

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


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 New Magazine Capacity Limits

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.



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

Update — On July 17, 2018, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit narrowly affirmed the preliminary injunction blocking implementation of California’s LCM possession ban. However, the appeals court did not decide the merits of the constitutional challenge, and found only that the district court’s preliminary decision was not an abuse of discretion. California’s law remains on hold pending a decision by the district court on whether to grant a permanent injunction and the Ninth Circuit’s resolution of an appeal of that decision.

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.

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.