Wednesday, February 13, 2013
President Obama's proposals to ban assault weapons and limit the size of magazines violates the Second Amendment, according to David B. Rivkin, Jr., and Andrew M. Grossman writing in last week's WSJ. They say that the ban and limit would interfere with the Second Amendment right to bear arms for self defense--a right, they say, that ought to be applied every bit as rigorously as the First Amendment right to free speech.
Lots of gun-rights advocates have made similar claims, but Rivkin and Grossman's piece may be particularly notable: Rivkin was on the early edge of certain other constitutional claims that many did not take seriously at the time but that were nevertheless ultimately vindicated. Recall that he argued early in the debates that the universal coverage provision, or the so-called individual mandate, in the Affordable Care Act exceeded congressional authority under the Commerce Clause. (Rivkin made that argument on the pages of the WSJ, too.) Many didn't take this seriously. But last summer, the Court said he was right (although it also upheld congressional authority to enact the provision under its taxing power, which Rivkin also argued against).
Anyway, here's Rivkin's case against President Obama's proposals:
[Assault weapons] may look sinister, but they don't differ from other common weapons in any relevant respect--firing mechanism, ammunition, magazine size--and so present no greater threat to public safety. Needless to say, the government has no legitimate interest in banning guns that gun-controllers simply do not like and would not, themselves, care to own.
Also constitutionally suspect are restrictions on magazine size. There is no question that a limit of 10 rounds (as the president has proposed) or seven (as enacted by New York state last month) would impair the right to self-defense. A magazine with 10 rounds may provide adequate protection against a single nighttime intruder. But it may not: What if there are two intruders?
In short: assault weapons and 10-round magazines may be necessary for self-defense, and there's no good reason for government to restrict them.
Rivkin and Grossman argue that Second Amendment restrictions--even including things like requirements to carry gun insurance and even especially high taxes on ammunition--ought to get the full First Amendment treatment: strict scrutiny, or something close to it.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Representative Steve Stockman (R-TX) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) today introduced companion bills that would overturn President Obama's series of recent orders on gun control. Politico reports here; The Hill here; and Stockman's press release is here. (Rep. Stockman, you may recall, earlier called for President Obama's impeachment over the orders.)
According to Stockman's press release, his objection is more about separation of powers than infringement on the Second Amendment, though he mentions both. As to powers, he argues that "the Constitution flatly prohibits the President from making up his own laws." Stockman's legislation, the Restore The Constitution Act, would
declare any past, present or future executive action that infringes on the powers and duties of Congress in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, or the Second Amendment to the Constitution or that would require the expenditure of federal funds not specifically appropriated for the purpose of executive action, is advisory only and has no force or effect unless enacted by law.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
An interactive map revealing gun information published by a suburban New York newspaper is causing an uproar. The newspaper explained, to "create the map, The Journal News submitted Freedom of Information requests for the names and addresses of all pistol permit holders in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam [Counties]. By state law, the information is public record."
The newspaper's actions come in the wake of renewed conversations regarding gun control and ownership. However, the disclosure of information using google maps is not new. Activists used Google maps to disclose the names, addresses, and contributions made by Californians in support of Proposition 8 that prohibited same-sex marriage. (Recall Prop 8 is now before the United States Supreme Court.)
While not using mapping applications, the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Doe v. Reed is relevant. In Doe v. Reed, the Court 8-1 rejected a First Amendment challenge to the disclosure of names on a petition seeking a ballot initiative, again prohibiting same-sex marriage, in Washington state. Interestingly, during the oral argument, the Justices seemed often to conflate the Washington initiative with California's Proposition 8. Yet the fact that state law through its public record law was merely requiring disclosure, rather than prohibiting speech, was central to the Court's opinion that there was not a right to remain anonymous. The names were thus disclosed.
State law could, however, provide a "Firearms Ownership Privacy Act" such as those being advocated by the National Rifle Association that might seek to declare gun permits non-public records. The firearms privacy act passed in Florida, prohibiting doctors from inquiring about gun ownership, was enjoined as a violation of the First Amendment.
[image screenshot via]
Friday, December 21, 2012
ConLawProf Adam Winkler's book Gun Fight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America published in 2011 has understandably receiving renewed attention.
One of the more interesting arguments Winkler makes is that the Black Panthers were the true pioneers of modern pro-gun advocacy, at a time when the National Rifle Association championed gun regulation.
Winkler's article for The Atlantic, The Secret History of Guns, also published last year and adapted from the book, is definitely worth a (re)read.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
The national conversation on violence has shifted since last week to include not only discussions of the Second Amendment, the role of conlaw scholars, appropriate quotations, and arming school teachers, but also "violent video games."
Any mention of the regulation of violent video games occurs in the shadow of the Court's 2011 decision in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association in which the Court held unconstitutional California's statute prohibiting the sale of violent video games to minors under the age of 18 without parental permission. Scalia, for the Court, assessed the statute under the First Amendment, reasoning that the statute was not narrowly tailored:
As a means of protecting children from portrayals of violence, the legislation is seriously underinclusive, not only because it excludes portrayals other than video games, but also because it permits a parental or avuncular veto. And as a means of assisting concerned parents it is seriously overinclusive because it abridges the First Amendment rights of young people whose parents (and aunts and uncles) think violent video games are a harmless pastime.
In dissent, Breyer cited more than 100 studies on the links between violent video games and aggression, contending that legislatures were in a better position to assess such social science data than judges.
Professor William Ford (pictured) interrogates the scientific and social scientific underpinnings of video game regulation. In his article The Law and Science of Video Game Violence: What Was Lost in Translation?, forthcoming in Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal, available in draft on ssrn, Ford ultimately agrees with the Court's conclusion in Entertainment Merchants Association, given that "the First Amendment interests at stake in these cases outweighed the speculative possibility that a legislature is better able to assess scientific evidence than the courts." He criticizes Breyer's view that legislatures are better positioned to assess the data than judges, by noting that legislators are also ill-equipped as social scientists. Ford states that "there is no study, let alone a literature, assessing the relative skill of legislators and judges in reviewing or assessing scientific evidence." Ford then implies that legislators might be less able to assess the evidence, because "the dominant goal usually associated with legislative behavior is reelection, which is not necessarily conducive to the careful assessment of scientific evidence." Taken to its logical conclusion, that sentiment would have the courts very busy indeed, and would obliterate deferential review in constitutional law.
Ford's arguments about the social science literature, however, are exceedingly well-taken. In sum, it is inconclusive at best. Considering not only Entertainment Merchants Association, but other legislation and cases, he summarizes:
The relevant literature is large, especially when one recognizes that these cases cannot just be about whether video game “violence” causes “aggression.” At a minimum, these cases were also about, or should have been about, a nuanced view of what counts as violence and aggression, how to operationalize violence and aggression, what types of violence may be particularly harmful, who might be most susceptible to harmful effects from violent media, and whether government restrictions would do anything to alleviate the harm.
Ford's article is also worth a read for its excellent discussion of "causation" in the debates about the role of video games. This is an issue that may surface as more facts become known about recent events - - - and even more studies are produced that may be used by legislators and courts.
[image: Mortal Kombat via]
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
If the often touted solution to unacceptable speech is "more speech" in the First Amendment context, perhaps there is a parallel Second Amendment solution, as in "more guns." Indeed, one repeated suggestion to prevent school shootings is to arm teachers with sufficient fire power.
Claire Potter (pictured) contemplates this suggestion in her popular Chronicle of Higher Education column "Tenured Radical." Her latest post "Teachers are not Soldiers," highlights the ethical and moral rationales for not allowing violence to escalate into our schools and universities.
But Potter also has a compelling and deeply pragmatic argument. She relates an incident when a student was killed on campus and she and her colleague suspected that perhaps "Jack," a student who had been acting unbalanced, was the perpetrator:
Imagine if, because of our uncertainty about what was wrong with Jack or what it meant, we had greeted our innocent student — already laboring under great emotional strain — with a couple of handguns in the face. Imagine, worse, if there had been a second, inadvertent, killing that day because we misread his fear, anger or confusion as aggression. Veteran police officers, well trained as they are, make this mistake with far too great a frequency in the city I now live in. Historically, and in our current wars, so do soldiers.
Potter's post is worth reading in full, especially if you can't precisely articulate the reasons you don't want to carry an automatic weapon with you to class in addition to your casebook, notebook, powerpoint notes, flash drive, keys, and class attendance list.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
"Beat Generation" afficionados and American Literature majors know William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch; ConLawProfs may recall the First Amendment implications including the eventual decree by Massachusetts' highest court that the book was not obscene, Attorney General v. A Book Named “Naked Lunch,” 218 N.E.2d 571 (Mass. 1965).
Many also know the broad outlines of William Burrough's life, including his drug addiction and his fatal shooting of his wife. For those less well-acquainted, Ted Morgan's biography, Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs is an interesting read. Morgan discusses the various versions of Burroughs' killing of his wife in Mexico by shooting her in the head. The usual version (and Burroughs' own) features a small social gathering, drinking alcohol, and Burroughs' suggestion that his wife put a glass on her head and he shoot it off "William Tell" style. He missed and she was dead. He eventually fled back to the United States and was convicted in Mexico in absentia. Morgan quotes Burroughs as haunted by the killing and "often" saying his life was an "evil river" and that he was possessed by an "evil spirit."
Given his biography, Burroughs makes a rather odd spokesperson for Second Amendment rights. Yet, as both Dan Filler over at Faculty Lounge and Brian Leiter quoting Jason Walta note, a December 14 op-ed in USA Today in favor of expansive Second Amendment rights begins with a quote from William S. Burroughs: " "After a shooting spree," author William Burroughs once said, "they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it." "
Monday, December 17, 2012
With renewed attention on the Second Amendment and guns after Friday's horrific events, a provocative (re)read is Carl T. Bogus' 2000 article, The History And Politics of Second Amendment Scholarship: A Primer, published in a Symposium on the Second Amendment in Volume 76 of Chicago-Kent Law Review, and available on the Second Amendment Foundation website here.
Professor Bogus (pictured) who has written widely on the Second Amendment discusses the involvement of the legal scholarly community with Second Amendment issues and organizations. Writing years before the Court's 5-4 decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), Bogus traces the move from the "collective right" model (stressing the militia aspect) of the Second Amendment that was universal until 1960, including the efforts of organizations to fund work friendly to the individual right interpretation of the Second Amendment, which became known as the "Standard Model."Bogus stops short of arguing scholars were improperly influenced, but argues that the influences are worth considering, writing:
One last note before concluding. I have written about the campaign to develop a large body of literature supporting the individual right position and to create a perception that this view constitutes a standard model of scholarship (a perception this Symposium is likely to end). I have observed that some writers have connections to gun rights organizations, and even that some received grants in connection with their writings. I do not, however, contend that anyone was paid or improperly influenced to advocate a position that he or she does not genuinely hold. On the contrary, I am convinced that individuals identified in this Article believe - - - many passionately - - - in what they have written. And I believe everyone, regardless of political affiliation or belief, is entitled to have his or her work judged on its merits.
Why then discuss the history and politics of Second Amendment scholarship? Why not focus entirely on the merits? The history and politics of Second Amendment scholarship, including to some extent the political affiliations and agendas of the participants, is relevant because so-called standard modelers made it relevant. They have made much of both the size of the individual right literature and the prominence of certain scholars endorsing that position. It is important, therefore, to understand the history and politics that have helped bring these about.
Although more than a decade old, Carl Bogus article is certainly worth a (re)read by constitutional scholars.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
A divided three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit ruled today in Moore v. Madigan that Illinois's prohibition on carrying a ready-to-use gun outside the home violates the Second Amendment. The crux of the ruling is the majority's view that the Second Amendment protects the right to self defense even outside the home.
Judge Posner wrote a meandering opinion for the majority, examining history, text, precedent, social science, and even the fact that Illinois is the only state with a flat ban on carrying ready-to-use guns. Judge Posner wrote that the Second Amendment text ("keep" and "bear") and the language of both Heller and McDonald suggested that the right to self defense in those cases was not limited to the home.
Judge Posner applied the Seventh Circuit's "strong showing" standard from U.S. v. Skoien, 614 F.3d 638 (7th Cir. 2010), addressing the federal ban on firearm possession of any person "who has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence." 18 U.S.C. Sec. 922(g)(9). Under that standard, the government has to make a "strong showing" that a gun ban was vital to public safety. Here, Illinois had to make an even stronger showing than the government in Skoien, because "the curtailment of gun rights [under Illinois law is] much narrower." Op. at 14. The standard is higher--maybe much higher--than rational basis review. The court explained:
A blanket prohibition on carrying a gun in public prevents a person from defending himself anywhere except inside his home; and so substantial a curtailment of the right of armed self-defense requires a greater showing of justification than merely that the public might benefit on balance from such a curtailment, though there is no proof it would. In contrast, when a state bans guns merely in particular place, such as public schools, a person can preserve an undiminished right of self-defense by not entering those places; since that's a lesser burden, the state doesn't need to prove so strong a need. Similarly, the state can prevail with less evidence when, as in Skoien, guns are forbidden to a class of persons who present a higher than average risk of misusing a gun. And empirical evidence of a public safety concern can be dispensed with altogether when the ban is limited to obviously dangerous persons such as felons and the mentally ill. Illinois has lots of options for protecting its people from being shot without having to eliminate all possibility of armed self-defense in public.
Op. at 15.
Judge Posner said that Illinois failed to meet this standard. In particular, Judge Posner wrote that Illinois was alone among the 50 states in having such a restrictive law, and that "[i]f the Illinois approach were demonstrably superior, one would expect at least one or two other states to have emulated it." Op. at 16.
Judge Williams dissented, arguing that the Supreme Court in Heller and McDonald did not answer the question here--whether the Second Amendment protects the right to carry guns for self defense outside the home--and that the court should defer to the State unless and until the Supreme Court rules otherwise.
Monday, December 3, 2012
Judge Thomas Johnston (WDWV) ruled in U.S. v. Mark that the federal ban on body armor possession by a convicted felon did not violate the Second Amendment or Due Process Clause, and that Congress did not exceed its authority in enacting the ban under the Commerce Clause.
Mark brought his challenge after he was charged and convicted of possession of body armor by a felon under 18 U.S.C. Secs. 931 and 921(a)(35). Federal marshalls found the body armor, along with a cache of weapons, in a protective sweep of his home after his arrest.
Judge Johnston ruled that the statutes did not violate the Second Amendment, because there was no indication that the Framers intended to protect body armor in the Second Amendment, and there was no case law on body armor providing any additional guidance. He wrote that the statutes were not unconstitutionally vague under due process in defining "body armor," because Section 931 gives a definition "that is readily understandable to the ordinary person." Op. at 19. And he held that the jurisdictional element in Section 931 was indistinguishable from the jurisdictional element in 18 U.S.C. Sec. 922(g)(1), the statute penalizing possession of firearms by convicted felons and upheld by the Fourth Circuit--on the basis of its jurisdictional element.
Judge Johnston also ruled the marshalls' search, a protective sweep of the home after arrest, didn't violate the Fourth Amendment.
December 3, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Criminal Procedure, Due Process (Substantive), Fourth Amendment, News, Opinion Analysis, Second Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
The central argument of ConLawProf Allen Rostron's article, Justice Breyer’s Triumph in the Third Battle over the Second Amendment, published at 80 George Washington Law Review 703 (2012), and available in draft on ssrn, received further validation with yesterday's Second Circuit opinion upholding a New York law restricting concealed carrying of firearms in public.
Rostron (pictured) considers the range of lower court decisions resulting from challenges to state and local firearm regulations made possible by the Court's recent Second Amendment decisions. Heller v. District of Columbia, the first "battle" in the gun wars, recognized a Second Amendment right beyond the militia, and in the second battle of 2010, the Court in McDonald v. City of Chicago, incorporated this right to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. However, in neither "battle" did the Supreme Court specify what level of scrutiny or test should be used to assess the validity of gun laws under the Second Amendment, leaving the lower courts to struggle with this issue.
Rostron's contribution is his engagement with the third "battle": the interpretation and application of Heller and McDonald in the lower courts. He argues that the third phase of the fight over the right to keep and bear arms is moving toward an unusual result, with these decisions reflecting the "pragmatic sentiments of Justice Breyer’s dissenting opinions in Heller and McDonald," rather than the majority, plurality, or concurring opinions that are long on history and rhetoric and short on doctrine or guidance.
Rostron is candid about his own preferences and equally candid that the politics or doctrine could shift, including the Court's grant of certiorari in an additional case in order to promulgate a strict scrutiny standard. For now, however, Rostron's compelling article demonstrates that Breyer's dissent operates in many ways as a majority opinion.
Of course, if Breyer's view had prevailed in the controversial 5-4 decisions in Heller and McDonald, the federal courts would not be busily adjudicating these Second Amendment challenges.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Second Circuit on Second Amendment: New York's Gun Licensing Limitation for Concealed Handguns Is Constitutional
In a unanimous opinion today, a Second Circuit panel in Kachalsky v. County of Westchester upheld New York's requirement that applicants prove “proper cause” to obtain licenses to carry handguns for self-defense under New York Penal Law section 400.00(2)(f).
Affirming the district judge, the panel interpreted the Supreme Court's controversial Heller v. District of Columbia 2008 decision, as well as the subsequent McDonald v. City of Chicago opinion holding that the Second Amendment right recognized in Heller was incorporated to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. (Recall that four Justices in McDonald ruled incorporation was through the due process clause, with Justice Thomas concurring in the result, but contending incorporation occurred through the privileges or immunities clause).
One of the issues left open by Heller and McDonald was the level of scrutiny to be applied to gun regulations. The plaintiffs, represented by Alan Gura, familiar from both Heller and McDonald, argued that strict scrutiny should apply. In rejecting strict scrutiny, the Second Circuit panel emphasized that the New York regulation at issue was not within the core interest protected by the Heller Court's interpretation of the Second Amendment - - - self-defense within the home - - - but was a limitation of concealed weapons permits to those who could demonstrate a "special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community or of persons engaged in the same profession." The panel also rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the concealed carry permits were akin to prior restraint under the First Amendment. The court stated, "“We are hesitant to import substantive First Amendment principles wholesale into Second Amendment jurisprudence. Indeed, no court has done so.” (emphasis in original). Later in the opinion, the court provided an even more convincing argument:
State regulation under the Second Amendment has always been more robust than of other enumerated rights. For example, no law could prohibit felons or the mentally ill from speaking on a particular topic or exercising their religious freedom.
Recall that even the majority opinions in Heller and McDonald maintained that prohibiting felons or the mentally ill from possessing guns was consistent with the Second Amendment.
The Second Circuit decided that "intermediate scrutiny" was "appropriate in this case": "The proper cause requirement" of the New York law "passes constitutional muster if it is substantially related to the achievement of an important governmental interest."
The substantial (and indeed compelling) governmental interests were "public safety and crime prevention," as the parties seemed to agree. As to the substantial relationship, the court noted that the "legislative judgment" surrounding these issues was a century old and that the proper cause requirement was a "hallmark" of New York's handgun regulation since then. The court also noted that the law was not a ban, but a restriction to those persons who have a reason to possess a concealed handgun in public. New York did submit more current studies, and the court credited these even as it stated that the decision was clearly a policy one for the legislature. Heller did not, the court ruled, take such "policy choices off the table."
The Second Circuit's opinion is doctrinally well-reasoned, but also a deliberate engagement with the history of gun regulation. In the very beginning of its analysis, the opinion states
New York’s efforts in regulating the possession and use of firearms predate the Constitution. By 1785, New York had enacted laws regulating when and where firearms could be used, as well as restricting the storage of gun powder.
The court returns again and again to the history, in New York and elsewhere, even as it reiterates that history does not answer the question.
[image" The Knotted Gun," sculpture in NYC outside UN, via].
Sunday, October 28, 2012
A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit in NRA v. ATF upheld the federal ban on gun sales by federal firearms licensees to those under 21 years of age against a Second Amendment challenge. Notably, the court ruled that the ban didn't even touch activity protected by the Second Amendment (and it therefore didn't violate the Second Amendment). But, the court ruled, even if it did touch activity protected by the Second Amendment, it did not violate the Second Amendment.
This is the first federal circuit court ruling on these federal provisions and only the second federal court ruling on them. (The first, a 2008 district court ruling from the Western District of Texas, held the provisions constitutional under an intermediate scrutiny standard.) Otherwise the ruling breaks no new ground in Second Amendment jurisprudence post Heller and McDonald--it hews closely to the Second Amendment jurisprudential line set by other circuits--and it therefore may be a model and bellwether for other cases challenging these provisions.
The NRA will certainly seek en banc review, and the ultimate loser at the Fifth Circuit will undoubtedly seek cert. The case presents a good candidate for the Supreme Court to set and to apply a Second Amendment standard (on the one hand), but it's almost surely too soon, without any other circuit ruling on the provisions (on the other). At the end of the day, the Supreme Court is unlikely to take this one up, so long as any final ruling from the Fifth Circuit reflects the kind of cautious, well-within-bounds approach of this panel.
The federal provisions, 18 U.S.C. Secs. 922(b)(1) and (c)(1), together prohibit federally licensed firearms dealers from selling handguns to persons under the age of 21. The NRA sued with a couple individual named plaintiffs and argued that the restriction violated the Second Amendment.
The Fifth Circuit disagreed. The court recognized that the Supreme Court has not defined a precise constitutional test for Second Amendment challenges. But in adopting the flexible and "prevailing" two-step inquiry established by the Third, Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Tenth, and D.C. Circuits, the court drew on language from Heller:
[N]othing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
Op. at 10 (quoting Heller at 626-27) (emphasis added). The two-step inquiry asks: (1) Does the challenged law impinge upon a right protected by the Second Amendment? and (2) Does intermediate scrutiny or strict scrutiny apply?
As to the first question, the court carefully surveyed the history and tradition of gun sale regulations and concluded that
the conduct at issue falls outside the Second Amendment's protection. At a high level of generality, the present ban is consistent with a longstanding tradition of targeting select groups' ability to access and to use arms for the sake of public safety. More specifically, the present ban appears consistent with a longstanding tradition of age- and safety-based restrictions on the ability to access arms. In conformity with founding-era thinking, and in conformity with the views of various 19th-century legislators and courts, Congress restricted the ability of minors under 21 to purchase handguns because Congress found that they tend to be relatively immature and that denying them easy access to handguns would deter violent crime.
Op. at 26-27. Thus the court ruled that it didn't even need to get to the second question.
But just in case, it did. On the second question, the court applied intermediate scrutiny and held that curbing violent crime by those under 21 constitutes an important government objective and that the sales ban--not a blunter possession ban--adequately served that end.
Friday, October 19, 2012
The labels of constitutional interpretative practice often attached to Justices such as "legal realist" or "originalist" are both useful and problematical. In her essay, John Paul Stevens, Originalist, 106 Northwestern University Law Review 743 (2012), available on ssrn, Professor Diane Marie Amann (pictured), makes an argument that Justice Stevens could just as well be called an originalist as his more usual label of pragmatist.
Amann's essay argues that scholars need to recognize that Stevens "has done battle upon originalism’s own field of combat." She highlights Stevens opinions in the "gun rights" cases of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), the latter of which was rendered the day before Stevens retired after almost thirty-five years as a Justice.
Importantly, she also situates Stevens career within the history of the Court, especially Justices appointed by FDR such as Justice Rutledge, for whom Stevens clerked in 1947.
For anyone teaching, writing, or studying theories of constitutional interpretation, Amman's essay is a must-read.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Judge Marcia Cook (S.D. Fl.) last week ruled in Wollschlaeger v. Farmer that the Florida's law restricting health care providers from asking whether a patient owns a firearm violates free speech. The ruling permanently enjoins the state from enforcing four provisions of the act and from disciplining health care providers who violate them. We posted on the case previously--when Judge Cook granted a preliminary injunction--here.
The ruling is a blow to state efforts to restrict health care providers from talking and asking patients about gun ownership. But the ruling makes clear that any worries about discrimination against gun owners was based on only the thinnest actual evidence. (In other words, the law protected against something that didn't exist--at least in any widespread, systematic way.) Thus, this case isn't a ruling on a clash between First and Second Amendment rights--because the state failed to show that there was any real interference with Second Amendment rights driving the law. This is a pure free speech case, and the state's stated interests just don't hold up.
A group of doctors and health care providers brought the case challenging Florida's ban--which prohibits doctors and health care providers from talking or asking patients about firearms ownership. The plaintiffs claimed that the law chilled their speech about preventive health issues. Judge Cook agreed. The state's biggest problem, according to Judge Cook, was that it didn't show that the law was tailored to meet any particular problem--that the state failed to show that there was any widespread infringement on the right to bear arms or any widespread discrimination against gun owners by health care providers.
Florida Statutes 790.338 provides:
(1) A health care practitioner . . . or a health care facility . . . may not intentionally enter any disclosed information concerning firearm ownership into the patient's medical record if the practitioner knows that such information is not relevant to the patient's medical care or safety, or to the safety of others.
(2) A health care practitioner . . . or a health care facility . . . shall respect a patient's right to privacy and should refrain from making a written inquiry or asking questions concerning the ownership of a firearm or ammunition by the patient or by a family member of the patient, or the presence of a firearm in a private home or other domicile of the patient or a family member of the patient. Notwithstanding this provision, a health care practitioner or health care facility that in good faith believes that this information is relevant to the patient's medical care or safety, or the safety of others, may make such a verbal or written inquiry.
. . .
(5) A health care practitioner . . . or a health care facility . . . may not discriminate against a patient based solely upon the patient's exercise of the constitutional right to own and possess firearms or ammunition.
(6) A health care practitioner . . . or a health care facility . . . may not discriminate against a patient based solely upon the patient's exercise of the constitutional right to own and possess firearms or ammunition.
After ruling that the plaintiffs had standing to challenge these four provisions of the law, and that the challenge was ripe, Judge Cook ruled that these provisions violated the First Amendment. She wrote that the provisions were content-based restrictions on speech, subject to strict scrutiny; that they were a ban on (especially protected) truthful, non-misleading speech; and that the state's interests didn't stand up.
The state said that it had interests in protecting patients' Second Amendment rights, protecting patients' access to health care in the face of discrimination (against those who own firearms), protecting patients' privacy rights, and regulating professionals.
But Judge Cook ruled that the state couldn't show any widespread infringement on patients' Second Amendment rights, access, or equal treatment. The law was based entirely on a handful of anecdotes. Moreover, the law itself contains protections for patients--for example, allowing them not to answer questions about firearms ownership. The state's interests, Judge Cook ruled, were therefore insufficient to withstand strict scrutiny analysis.
They were also insufficient to withstand a less rigorous balancing under Gentile v. State Bar of Nevada, a case setting the free speech bar lower when a state seeks to regulate a lawyer's speech.
Judge Cook also ruled that two clauses were unconstitutionally vague: "relevant to the patient's medical care or safety, or the safety of others"; and "unnecessarily harassing." Those phrases, she said, do not give sufficient guidance to health care providers as to what speech is covered and what speech is not.
July 4, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, First Amendment, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Ripeness, Second Amendment, Speech, Standing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Friday, June 1, 2012
In the latest installment in the long-running saga Nordyke v. King, the en banc Ninth Circuit ruled today that Alameda County's ban on gun shows at the county fairgrounds didn't violate the Second Amendment, because, well, Alameda County changed its policy to allow gun shows.
The county's late-in-the-day move pulled the rug out from under the plaintiffs' original Second Amendment claim and gave the court an out (which it took) in articulating a Second Amendment standard. The move also allowed the court to preempt any repleading by the plaintiffs. Between the county's move and the court's ruling, the case now has virtually no chance of going to the Supreme Court.
Recall that the case involved Alameda County's ban on gun shows at the county fairgrounds. The county ordinance banned firearms on the fairgrounds, but provided exceptions for, among other things, a "dance or theatrical production or event, when the participant lawfully uses the firearm as part of that production or event." The county originally interpreted the ordinance to ban gun shows, and the plaintiffs sued.
That was a long time ago, and the case has been up and down several times since. But most recently, the county re-interpreted its ordinance to allow gun shows (as an "event"), provided that the weapons are secured or tethered (like cell phones are in a cell phone store).
The en banc Ninth Circuit ruled that the county's change in interpretation meant that the plaintiffs no longer had a Second Amendment claim against a ban on gun shows. The court said nothing about the Second Amendment itself.
As to the requirement that the guns remain secured or tethered, the court said that that "[n]o matter how broad the scope of the Second Amendment . . . it is clear that . . . this regulation is permissible."
Judge O'Scannlain, joined by Judges Tallman, Callahan, and Ikuta, concurred, arguing that the court should have adopted a standard of scrutiny for the Second Amendment--the "measured, calibrated approach developed in the original three-judge panel majority opinion, which considers carefully the extent of the regulation's burden on Second Amendment rights." But even applying this standard, Judge O'Scannlain argued that the county's new interpretation of the ordinance would survive.
Judge Ikuta, joined by Judge Callahan, also wrote a concurrence, arguing that the court should adopt a standard and determine whether the plaintiffs could re-plead their case.
While we still don't have guidance from the Supreme Court as to the standard for Second Amendment claims, this case now makes a poor candidate for the Court to determine that standard. Look for this case to (finally) end.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
The Fordham Urban Law Journal will host its Volume XXXIX Symposium next Friday, March 9, titled Gun Control and the Second Amendment: Developments and Controversies in the Wake of District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago.
The Journal put together a terrific line-up, available here. The program runs from 10 am to 5 pm on Friday, March 9, 2012, at the Fordham University School of Law, James B.M. McNally Amphitheater. CLE credit is available.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Today is Bill of Rights Day, marking the 220th anniversary of the adoption of the United States Constitution's Bill of Rights.
In his Presidential Proclamation last week, Obama stated:
On December 15, 1791, the United States adopted the Bill of Rights, enshrining in our Constitution the protection of our inalienable freedoms, from the right to speak our minds and worship as we please to the guarantee of equal justice under the law. For 220 years, these fundamental liberties have shaped our national character and stirred the souls of all who dream of a freer, more just world. As we mark this milestone, we renew our commitment to preserving our universal rights and perfecting our Union.
Introduced in the First Congress in 1789, the Bill of Rights was born out of compromise. The promise of enumerated rights enabled the ratification of the Constitution without fear that a more centralized government would encroach on American freedoms. In adopting the first ten Amendments, our Founders put forth an ideal that continues to define our Nation -- that we can have both liberty and security, that we need not sacrifice the rights of man for the rule of law.
Throughout our country's history, generations have risen to uphold the principles outlined in our Bill of Rights and advance equality for all Americans. The liberties we enjoy today are possible only because of these brave patriots, from the service members who have defended our freedom to the citizens who have braved billy clubs and fire hoses in the hope of extending America's promise across lines of color and creed. On Bill of Rights Day, we celebrate this proud legacy and resolve to pass to our children an America worthy of our Founders' vision.
Some would argue, however, that the Bill of Rights does not enshrine "the guarantee of equal justice under the law" in the Constitution, given that the concept of individual equality does not appear in the Constitution until the Fourteenth Amendment passed after the Civil War. The Fourteenth Amendment also introduced the word "male" into the Constitution, in section 2 regarding voting, although section 1 uses the word "persons."
The "Bill of Rights" as ratified does primarily focus on "rights," but the original Resolution of Congress consisting of twelve amendments did not concern rights. Instead, they concerned Congress itself:
Article the first . . . After the first enumeration required by the first Article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which, the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.
Article the second . . . No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
The latter became the 27th Amendment, ratified more than two centuries later in 1992.
- Amendment 1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
- Amendment 2. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
- Amendment 3. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
- Amendment 4. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
- Amendment 5. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
- Amendment 6. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
- Amendment 7. In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
- Amendment 8. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
- Amendment 9. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
- Amendment 10. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
[image from National Archives via]
December 15, 2011 in Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Establishment Clause, Fifth Amendment, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Fundamental Rights, Gender, History, Interpretation, Privileges or Immunities: Fourteenth Amendment , Race, Reconstruction Era Amendments, Religion, Second Amendment, Seventh Amendment, Sixth Amendment, Speech, Tenth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Judge Jack Weinstein (E.D.N.Y.) yesterday rejected a claim that the federal law criminalizing the receipt of a firearm in interstate commerce violates the Second Amendment. The case, U.S. v. Laurent, arises out of an indictment under 18 U.S.C. Section 922(n), which says:
It shall be unlawful for any person who is under indictment for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce any firearm or ammunition or receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.
Laurent's indictment was for receiving a firearm in violation of Section 922(n). He challenged that provision on its face under the Second Amendment, among others.
Judge Weinstein wrote that intermediate scrutiny is appropriate:
The Supreme Court has indicated that some form of heightened scrutiny is necessary when the conduct at issue falls within the core of the Second Amendment right to bear arms for the purpose of self defense in the home. [Heller] As already noted, most courts of appeals have found that regulations which substantially burden the right to keep and to bear arms for the purpose of self-defense should receive intermediate scrutiny. By contrast, laws that do not substantially burden the right to keep and to bear arms for this purpose are not entitled to any level of heightened scrutiny.
Judge Weinstein ruled that Section 922(n) imposes a substantial burden, but satisfies intermediate scrutiny:
The prohibition at issue in this case is less restrictive than other subsections of 18 U.S.C. Section 922, which totally ban possession by particular categories of people, such as felons or misdemeanants convicted of domestic violence. They have survived intermediate scrutiny.
Concededly, given the presumption of innocence, the government's categorical presumption that all individuals under indictment for a felony are more likely to misuse firearms is somewhat suspect. Congress appears to have determined, however, that a narrower ban would not serve its interest in public safety. Initially, Congress only limited receipt of firearms by violent indictees. After three decades of experience, it saw the need to expand the prohibition to all indictees.
As demonstrated by the facts of this case, it cannot be said that Congress' determination to criminalize the act of receiving a firearm while under indictment was unreasonable, and that "no set of circumstances . . . under which [the statute] would be valid." Laurent was initially indicted in state court for crimes arising out of gun play in a residential building. He was subsequently arrested after allegedly robbing another individual at gun point. The fact that Laurent was charged with the instant crime because he apparently committed a crime of violence while under indictment undermines any claim that he might have that Section 922(n) is not substantially related to preventing him from engaging in further violence. He is hardly the law-abiding householder with a gun at home to protect his family. The statute is thus also not unconstitutional as applied to this defendant.
The fact that Laurent may eventually plead to a misdemeanor is not of statutory or constitutional significance. The crime is committed when the firearm is obtained while the defendant is under a felony indictment; dismissal, acquittal, or conviction does not affect that fact. So long as the government can show that he was under indictment for a felony at the time he received a firearm, he may be convicted under Section 922(n).
Because the statute is substantially and directly related to the important government interest in public safety, it survives intermediate scrutiny under the Second Amendment.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
The Ninth Circuit announced yesterday that it would rehear Nordyke v. King en banc. The case involves a Second Amendment challenge to a municipal gun show ban. The three-judge panel upheld the ban in May; the case will now go to the full Ninth Circuit.
The ruling gives the full Ninth Circuit a chance to determine the standard for Second Amendment challenges. Two of the judges on the panel applied a "substantial burden" test and upheld the ban:
Because the Supreme Court has yet to articulate a standard of review in Second Amendment cases, that task falls to the courts of appeals and the district courts. . . . .
The Supreme Court's reasoning in Heller and McDonald suggests that heightened scrutiny does not apply unless a regulation substantially burdens the right to keep and to bear arms in self-defense. . . .
We are satisfied that a substantial burden framework will prove to be far more judicially manageable than an approach that would reflexively apply strict scrutiny to all gun-control laws.
Judge Gould would have upheld the ban under a rational basis test:
Drawing from First Amendment doctrine, I would subject to heightened scrutiny only arms regulations falling within the core purposes of the Second Amendment, that is, regulations aimed at restricting defense of the home, resistance of tyrannous government, and protection of country; I would subject incidental burdens on the Second Amendment right (analogous to time, place, and manner speech restrictions) to reasonableness review.