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Politics Second Amendment

In the Courts: Rounding Up Gun Rights Cases

by Chris Cox   |  April 3rd, 2012 0

US Constitution With GavelThough it doesn’t usually make the headlines like a gun control vote in Congress or a state legislature, the NRA is constantly involved at the federal and state levels in lawsuits that can be just as crucial to our rights as the legislation or regulation they challenge. Here are thumbnail sketches of just a few of the most important cases we’re working on right now.

NRA Appeals to Protect the Rights of All Adults
In a case with huge implications for the self-defense rights of young adults, we’re appealing the decision of a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, in Jennings v. BATFE, upholding the federal law requiring a person to be 21 years of age to purchase a handgun from a federal firearms licensee. A similar case (still pending in the same court) challenges Texas’ law that denies carry permits to people under 21.

Gun Bans and Registration in Washington, D.C.
By a 2-1 margin, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has upheld the city’s new California-style “assault weapon” ban, and the more traditional elements of its gun registration law. However, the court required that the more unusual parts of the registration law—mandatory fingerprinting, vision tests, ballistics tests, mandatory training, and long gun registration—be reviewed by a lower court. The plaintiffs in the NRA-supported case will be challenging those onerous and unnecessary registration requirements.

Gun Owners Beat Arizona Lead Ban Suit
A federal district judge in Arizona has ruled in favor of the NRA and the federal Bureau of Land Management, dismissing Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The lawsuit tried to force the BLM to ban lead ammunition for hunting in the Arizona Strip, a prime hunting area in northwest Arizona. Thanks go out to Safari Club International for supporting our position in the case.

Dealers Challenge Rifle Sales Reporting
Soon, a decision should be rendered by a judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in an NRA-supported challenge to the Obama’s Administration’s new “multiple sales” reporting requirement. Under the new regulation, the BATFE—which allowed hundreds of guns to “walk” to Mexico as part of its “Fast and Furious” operation—is exceeding its legal authority by requiring firearm dealers in the southwestern border states to report the sale of two or more rifles of certain types and calibers.

Right to Carry
NRA is supporting a challenge to the state of Illinois’ total ban on carrying firearms outside the home for self-defense: Shepard v. Madigan, in the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.  In addition, NRA is supporting a challenge to San Diego County’s arbitrary scheme for issuing concealed carry permits in  and Peruta v. County of San Diego, in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in California. These cases argue that the right to carry is an important part of the fundamental right of self-defense, helps reduce crime, and that our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms is not limited to the home.

Sales Fees and Self-Defense in California
In the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, the NRA and the California Rifle and Pistol Association Foundation are challenging firearm Dealer Record of Sales fees charged by the California Department of Justice. In the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the NRA and CRPAF are backing Jackson v. City & County of San Francisco, a challenge to San Francisco’s ordinances requiring firearms to be disabled by a lock or stored in a locked container, and banning the sale of ammunition that “serves no sporting purpose.” Already, the lawsuit has forced the city to amend its firearm discharge ban to exempt self-defense and other situations allowed by state and federal law.

Gun Bans in Illinois
NRA is supporting Wilson v. Cook County before the Illinois Supreme Court, challenging the county’s expansive “assault weapon” ban. We’ve also helped a Chicago gun owner prevail over Chicago’s refusal to allow a local resident to lawfully possess two SKS rifles with fixed ten-round magazines, on the flimsy theory that the rifles are “convertible” into “assault weapons.”

As you can see, many of these cases are in very early stages, and could take years to reach final decisions.  In the meantime, still more will surely be filed, building on good precedent and challenging bad.  But these cases alone demonstrate that the gun owners’ legislative victories are not enough to fully protect our Second Amendment rights. And because all federal judges are appointed by the president and state judges are appointed by a governor or elected by the voters, every one of these cases should remind gun owners to get to the voting booth on Election Day.

For more details on all these cases and on other NRA legal efforts, and to subscribe to NRA-ILA’s new online Legal Update, go to www.nraila.org/legalupdate.

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