This is TTAG’s weekly roundup of legal and legislative news affecting guns, the gun business and gun owners’ rights.
The Dem Debates: Seriously, What Did You Expect?
The Democrat presidential debates dominated media attention this week. I’ve always taken issue with characterizing these things as “debates” as when one thinks of a “debate,” one generally imagines multiple people debating specific positions, rather than parroting memorized slogans and dodging uncomfortable questions.
That said, gun control was a popular refrain among 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, with many of the candidates spouting support for new laws and executive actions to reduce gun rights in this country.
We had Elizabeth Warren referring to gun violence as a “national health emergency,” but also shying away from federal intervention. We then saw Eric Swalwell, who has endeavored to make gun control a cornerstone of his campaign (and also bears more than a passing resemblance to Garfield’s owner) again allude to banning “the most dangerous weapons.”
Bernie Sanders mumbled something about a “gun crisis,” and spoke of his record of supporting assault weapon bans. Pete Buttigeg creatively suggested that if guns made Americans safer, then America “would be the safest country on Earth.”
A significant number of them mentioned school shootings, with particular attention paid to the Parkland activists. Because of course.
“Crime of Violence” is Unconstitutionally Vague
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in United States v. Davis that applying higher penalties for anyone using or possessing a firearm during a “crime of violence” was unconstitutionally vague. There are a number of considerations that go into the drafting of any law. One of the most fundamental is that a law must sufficiently identify the conduct it forbids.
As Justice Gorsuch wrote, “In our constitutional order, a vague law is no law at all.” Interestingly, Justice Gorsuch sided with the more progressive justices to overturn the law.
The law set a mandatory minimum sentence of five to ten years for crimes committed with firearms present. Other minimums are attached based on the type of firearm used, with traditionally NFA firearms being the most serious. The two men had been charged with brandishing short barreled shotguns, setting up 35-year minimum sentences.
Kentucky Carry Goes Permitless
Kentucky Senate Bill 150 took effect on Thursday, eliminating the hurdles to carrying a concealed weapon in the state. Now, anyone who legally owns a firearm can carry it most places.
The law does not change where and when people can carry, but rather eliminates the training, cost, and licensure requirements. That means concealed firearms still aren’t allowed in courthouses, prisons, police stations, jails, and “drinking establishments.”
Ohio Permitless Carry
Similar to Kentucky, Ohio House Bill 174 cleared a house committee on Tuesday, sending it closer to a House vote. The law was held up by an amendment requiring gun dealers to hand out one-page pamphlets on state gun laws, specifically on the duty to retreat before responding to lethal force.
Opponents argued that this disclosure could get gun owners killed in a self-defense situation. This poses an interesting question, as a duty to retreat is clearly dangerous to anyone defending themselves. Is it a legitimate answer to the problems posed by a duty to retreat to avoid informing gun purchasers of said duty? Not a question for me to decide, but it’s certainly sticky.
Colorado Red Flag Challenge
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a Colorado gun rights group, challenged Colorado’s red flag law in May. This week, Governor Jared Polis moved to dismiss the lawsuit. The motion makes a host of legal/technical arguments and the typical pleas that the judiciary not intervene in the realm of the legislature. Despite ruling what is and is not legal being the judiciary’s whole job, and all.
First 2A Sanctuary in CA
The somewhat hilariously named town of Needles, California has declared itself a Second Amendment sanctuary. Needles is a quiet desert town in the southeast part of the state on the Arizona border. Now it’s the first municipality in the eminently anti-gun state to take this type of action.
Gun sanctuary cities basically assert that the city will not use any resources to prosecute simple weapons possession offenses, and in some cases attempt to preempt state or federal law. The latter types tend to have little effect, but being able to feel comfortable with the local authorities gives a lot of breathing room to gun owners.