Case Information: Tyler v. Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Dep’t, No. 13-1876 (6th Cir. Brief Filed Aug. 19, 2015)
At issue: This case presents an as-applied challenge to the federal statute that prohibits firearm possession for individuals who have been involuntary committed to a mental institution. The plaintiff, Clifford Tyler, had been involuntarily committed to a mental institution in the 1980s, but had a clean record and bill of health since that time and argued that the statute, as applied to him, violated the Second Amendment. The Sixth Circuit agreed with this argument and, in doing so, became the first federal court of appeals to generally endorse strict scrutiny as the appropriate level of review for Second Amendment challenges. This case has important implications for how courts around the country analyze laws designed to reduce gun crime and violence.
The Law Center’s Brief: Our brief argues that the Sixth Circuit was wrong in its general conclusion that strict scrutiny should be the default level of review for Second Amendment cases. As the harshest level of review available, strict scrutiny is inappropriate in the context of firearms regulations that have been proven to save lives. If any heightened scrutiny is in fact mandated by the Second Amendment, intermediate scrutiny is the more appropriate level of review. Our brief argues that it is not true that laws that burden fundamental rights automatically trigger strict scrutiny and that several of the factors relied on in applying strict scrutiny in other contexts are not present in the Second Amendment arena. Unlike other constitutional rights, the exercise of Second Amendment rights inherently increase the risk of injury and death to others. Moreover, the Heller court itself implicitly rejected strict scrutiny when it classified several categories of laws, such as felon-in-possession laws, as “presumptively valid.”