This is TTAG’s weekly roundup of legal and legislative news affecting guns, the gun business and gun owners’ rights.
California District Court Upholds “Assault Weapon” Ban
We can’t know for sure what was going on behind the scenes at the Supreme Court in 2008 when Heller was decided. In addition to striking down DC’s categorical ban on handguns, Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, penned a 64-page penumbra full of examples, counterarguments, and loads upon loads of dicta (writing that is not actually a holding of law, but more editorial).
One particular piece of dicta has caused much more trouble than the late Justice Scalia likely imagined: his reference to “M-16 rifles, and the like.”
When Scalia wrote about “M-16 rifles,” he was making it clear that the Heller ruling was not an indictment of the National Firearms Act. Right or wrong, that’s manifestly what was intended by the language.
In the intervening decade since Heller, however, that piece of dicta has time and again empowered anti-gun judges to uphold categorical bans on any firearm the state argues is “like an M16.”
That’s what this week’s ruling in California was based on. Rupp v. Becerra is a challenge to the California Assault Weapons Control Act on Second Amendment grounds. California’s Attorney General moved for summary judgment, which was granted this week. Judge Josephine Stranton reasoned that the semi-automatic rifles banned in California “may be banned because they are, like the M-16, ‘weapons that are most useful in military service.'”
This is not only an intentional and egregious mis-statement of the law, but it follows some profoundly daft logic that’s used on both sides of the gun control aisle – that a firearm’s use in the military has anything to do with its use for civilians.
We hear the pro-gun side defend self-loading rifles by saying “Oh! Oh wait, no! They’re not full-auto like the guns the military uses, so they’re OK!” Then the anti-gun side says these weapons are “virtually indistinguishable” from their military counterparts, and thus should be banned.
Both sides focus on military use, and are thus both dumb.
For one, the military doesn’t pick guns because they are best-suited for criminal enterprise. They pick guns that are cheap, reliable, and easy to use. The same kind of considerations average people make.
Second, full-auto capability has virtually no impact on a firearm’s lethality. In fact, it reduces efficacy in direct engagements, being most useful for area denial. Hence why most western armed forces keep their guns in semi the vast majority of the time.
Further, gunshot wounds account for a distinct minority of combat fatalities, and have since the Great War, so firearms are not a key driver in the often senseless loss of human life to war.
In short: stop pretending that whether or not a soldier carries your gun, or one that looks just like it, has anything to do with why a civilian needs one. Not only is it in direct contravention with the history of the American civilian militia, but that kind of reasoning is what spurred sloppy dicta in Heller, and what empowered the federal court in California to uphold a manifestly unconstitutional law.
Florida Judge Strikes Down Fine on Local Gun Control
Federal gun control may be the primary point of discussion for us, but there’s a long history of state and local civil rights violations as well.
Florida has a supremacy clause for gun law. Local governments aren’t allowed to make or enforce laws more restrictive than those of the state. Of course, as we learned with Philly‘s municipal gun control faux pas, just saying “no” isn’t always enough when it comes to ambitious local assemblies. So in 2011 the state imposed a $5,000 fine on Florida mayors and city council members who defied the law “after abuse and intentional ignorance by local municipalities.”
After Parkland, though, a handful of Florida municipal governments sued the state, arguing that the “unprecedented” law went too far. This week, Leon County circuit judge Dodson struck down the penalties. “Because local governments must have what amount to small legislatures, and because courts cannot interfere in legislative processes, neither this court, nor any other court in Florida, can enforce the civil penalty provisions against local legislators.”
Brace for a Wave, Washington
On July 28th, a series of gun controls will take hold in Washington state. The bills include a series of reforms to red flag laws, an immediate six month suspension of gun rights for anyone who is admitted for a mental health evaluation, regardless of outcome, and requiring the seizure of all arms and ammunition whenever officers are called to the scene of an alleged domestic violence incident.
On the other hand, HB1934 allows military members who are stationed out-of-state to renew their concealed permits by mail. Yippee.
New Mexico Civil Rights Groups Challenge Red Flag & Background Checks
The New Mexico Patriots Advocacy Coalition launched a lawsuit this week challenging the constitutionality of New Mexico’s recently expanded background check regime, and a red flag type law.
The reporting on this hasn’t been terribly fair, as you might expect, with articles focusing on “domestic abusers” and simply referring to the background check system as “background checks.”
CRPA Challenges Cali Ammo Law
The California Rifle and Pistol Association, and a host of other civil rights groups, are suing for a preliminary injunction to block CA’s ammo background check scheme. The attorney for Kim Rhode, an Olympic shooter, noted that “California has placed the additional, absurd requirement that the very identification it issues is insufficient to undergo the background check, resulting in countless other eligible people being unable to exercise their rights.”
The law also poses constitutional concerns beyond the Second Amendment. CA law prohibits bringing ammunition purchased out-of-state inside, in contravention of the Commerce Clause to our Constitution, which basically prohibits states from enacting protectionist policies to force its residents to do business in-state.
“Ammo control” was the butt of many “slippery slope” jokes in the gun community a few years ago, and now here we are. As I’ve stressed before, if you are serious about your arms and your rights, you don’t have an excuse to be unable to load your own ammunition.
Hello Again, New Zealand
Once again in the news is our friend the tiny island nation of New Zealand, who, in an attempt to regain the trust they lost after hoodwinking and short-changing their residents in a buyback scandal, announced this week plans to expand registration requirements and clamp down on licensing for all gun owners.
Of course, if NZ’s government had a comprehensive registry of who owned what, they wouldn’t have to mess about trying to goad people into selling their guns. Brilliant!