Last-Ditch Injunction Denied, ‘Bump Stock’ Ban Goes Into Effect
The Supreme Court’s March 28 refusal to block the Trump administration’s outlawing of bump stocks does not conclude the legal challenge to what civil rights advocates call a clear example of regulatory “overreach” but ensures the ban remains in effect while litigation proceeds.
Which means as many as a half-million law-abiding Americans are now criminals if they have not destroyed or turned over to law enforcement devices that qualify as “bump stocks.”
In fact, Gun Owners of America attorney Michael Hammond told Mark Berman of The Washington Post that “a large majority of the 500,000 bump stock owners will refuse to turn in their property in what they view as an illegal, unconstitutional gun grab.”
The Supreme Court, however, on March 28 didn’t see it that way and denied a request for a temporary injunction to freeze the ban filed by gun-rights groups, including Gun Owners of America [GOA].
The Justice Department announced in December that bump stock owners had until March 26 to either destroy the devices or hand them over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives [ATF].
Under the rule change, the Justice Department classified bump stocks as machine guns because they “allow a shooter of a semiautomatic firearm to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger.”
Gun-right groups challenged it in court, including filing two petitions seeking to delay the ban from taking effect. Chief Justice John Roberts denied one such request on March 26—the day the ban went into effect—while Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked for more filings in response to another.
Sotomayor referred that stay request to the full court. Two days later, the justices denied the petition without noted dissent.
GAO Attorney Hammond said in a statement that the group was “disappointed” and pledged that it would “continue to fight the issue in the court system, as the case now returns to the lower courts.”
Meanwhile, the ATF has posted guides explaining how to destroy various bump stocks, urging people to follow these guidelines because otherwise the attempts at disabling the devices “may be legally insufficient.”
The ATF will not release updates on how many bump stocks it has collected or estimates of how many destroy. A spokeswoman told Berman of The Washington Post that number would not be “an accurate measure” of bump stocks people have shed, since some may opt to destroy them on their own or give them to other agencies.
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POST-SANDY HOOK RULING
Delaware Judge Upholds Liability Protections For Firearms Retailers
Two weeks after the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled federal liability protections granted firearms manufacturers under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) do not shield Remington Arms from potential liability in the Sandy Hook school shooting, a Delaware judge’s ruling has reaffirmed such protections assured under state law will remain.
On March 29 Delaware Superior Court Judge Vivian L. Medinilla dismissed a lawsuit from the family of a slain Wilmington woman that sought to hold Cabela’s civilly liable for allegedly selling the murder weapon in a “straw purchase.”
Medinilla said in a 32-page opinion that Cabela’s had followed the law when it sold a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol to Brilena Hardwick on July 26.
Thus, she ruled, the retailer was protected by a state statute, which shields gun-sellers from damages stemming from lawful transfers of firearms—essentially, a Delaware version of the PLCAA.
According to court documents, Hardwick gave the gun to her boyfriend, who sold it on the black market. It was later used in a drive-by shooting by two 16-year-olds that left a 19-year-old mother dead.
The victim’s family sued Cabela’s, alleging it knowingly provided false information to a federal database when it certified that Hardwick was the actual purchaser of the gun.
Cabela’s attorney Francis G.X. Pileggi argued that state law protected the company from damages caused by illegal transfers after a background check is conducted. Cabela’s, he said, had complied with state and federal law and had no reason to suspect that Hardwick was making an illegal purchase.
Medinilla agreed, noting it only became clear during a police investigation that the information Hardwick provided to Cabela’s was incorrect. At the time, the company ran a proper background check, received a response to proceed with the sale, and “otherwise complied” with its duties under state and federal law.
“For these reasons, the court finds that in drawing all inferences in favor of the plaintiffs, at this juncture, they are not able to recover under a reasonably conceivable set of circumstances susceptible to the complaint,” she wrote.
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Ohio Could Soon Be 17th State To Adopt Constitutional Carry
Ohio House Bill 174, co-sponsored by nearly half of the chamber’s Republicans, would abolish the state’s conceal-carry license and training requirements while expanding the list of allowable concealed weapons to include rifles and shotguns, instead of just handguns.
Similar bills have been introduced during every Ohio legislative session for at least two decades. All died.
But gun-rights supporters say this time could be different with Republican Gov. Mike DeWine more likely than his predecessors expected to sign the bill if it passes the Republican-dominated Ohio General Assembly.
“I never expected it to pass during prior sessions,” Jim Irvine, president of the pro-gun rights Buckeye Firearms Association, told Jeremy Pelzer, of The Plain Dealer on March 2. “But I think this session it is likely to.”
In addition, HB 174 would repeal an Ohio law requiring motorists stopped by law enforcement to notify the officer if they are carrying a gun.
Earlier in March, neighboring Kentucky became the 16th state to let people carry concealed guns without needing government approval.
Past attempts to loosen state conceal-carry rules have been opposed by law-enforcement groups such as the Ohio Police Chiefs Association and gun-control advocacy organizations like the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence.
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IN THE COURTS
Federal Judge Deep-Sixes California’s 10-Round Mag Cap
On March 29 U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez ruled California’s 10-round magazine capacity limit violates the Second Amendment, handing Second Amendment supporters and civil rights advocates a resounding victory in the long-contested Duncan v. Becerra case.
“Individual liberty and freedom are not outmoded concepts,” Benitez wrote in his ruling, issued in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
Benitez had already issued an injunction suspending enforcement of the mag cap. The injunction was upheld by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which kicked the case back to Benitez to weigh the merits of the law itself.
Benitez did so on March 29, writing that the California law was “turning the Constitution upside down” and systematically dismantling each of the state’s purported justifications for the law, demonstrating the factual and legal inconsistencies of their claims.
NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox hailed the decision as a “huge win for gun owners” and a “landmark recognition of what courts have too often treated as a disfavored right.”
“Judge Benitez took the Second Amendment seriously and came to the conclusion required by the Constitution,” Cox said. “The same should be true of any court analyzing a ban on a class of arms law-abiding Americans commonly possess for self-defense or other lawful purposes.”
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