Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN Second Amendment

Moving Targets

Thursday, February 19, 2009


 
Washington, D.C., Chicago, Morton Grove, Winnetka, Evanston, Oak Park, Wilmette: After the U.S. Supreme Court’s Heller decision, NRA’s lawyers are fighting civil rights battles in cities across the nation.

By Chris W. Cox
NRA-ILA Executive Director

Every shooter and hunter knows that moving targets are the hardest to hit.

Whether it’s a flushing pheasant in a cornfield or a “mover” at a handgun match, a moving target tests your nerves and your skill. Second Amendment litigation is much the same, as some local governments have changed their laws to duck challenges based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Heller decision last summer.

After the Heller ruling that the District of Columbia’s bans on handguns and on keeping loaded, operable guns in the home violated the Second Amendment, NRA and its team of outside lawyers began filing a series of lawsuits aimed at expanding the civil rights of gun owners under the Second Amendment. We’ve always known progress in the courts would be slow. Still, our efforts have forced the repeal of some of America’s worst local gun laws—with the prospect of more victories to come.

Naturally, one of the first, and most important, post-Heller cases is the follow-up litigation in Washington, D.C. As
soon as the Supreme Court decision became final in July, the District of Columbia Council passed an “emergency” law that allowed residents to own a pistol only “for use in self-defense within [the] home.”  The new law also allowed the District to charge would-be handgun owners multiple, unlimited fees for registration, fingerprinting and a “ballistics identification procedure.”

The District also kept its peculiar definition of “machine gun,” which bans not only firearms capable of fully automatic fire, but also firearms that shoot “or can be readily converted or restored to shoot … semiautomatically, more than 12 shots without manual reloading.”  (Emphasis added.)  To make matters worse, D.C. interpreted this language to ban any semi-automatic that uses a detachable magazine, because someone, somewhere, might have a magazine that would hold 12 or more rounds of ammunition.

Finally, once a new handgun owner suffered through the District’s bureaucratic process, he could only assemble, unlock and load the gun “while it is being used to protect against a reasonably perceived threat of immediate harm to a person within the registrant’s home.”

Naturally, this behavior by the District was unacceptable. Dick Anthony Heller (the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case) and Absalom Jordan Jr. (a longtime advocate for gun owners in D.C.) both put it to the test by trying to register semi-automatic pistols. Though neither gun was designed to fire more than 10 shots, the Metropolitan Police denied both applications, claiming the guns were “machine guns” under D.C.’s strange law. With NRA’s support, Second Amendment attorneys Stephen Halbrook and Richard Gardiner filed suit on Heller’s and Jordan’s behalf, challenging the District’s “machine gun” definition and other obstacles to legitimate gun ownership.

Winnetka and Morton Grove promptly repealed their bans, and both cases were dismissed. (Another town, Wilmette, repealed its handgun ban before we could file a suit.)

But before the “Heller II” case could progress much further, the D.C. Council passed a second “emergency” bill in September. (Under the federal law that gave home rule powers to the District, “emergency” bills can only stay in effect for 90 days, but unlike permanent laws they cannot be disapproved by the Congress.)  The second “emergency” bill repealed the old machine gun definition and adopted the definition used in federal law—legalizing semi-automatic rifles and pistols in D.C. But it also banned magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition (much like the federal ban that expired in 2004). This bill also repealed the old storage law, replacing it with a new penalty for “criminally negligent storage of a firearm” when a minor can gain access to the gun.

Then, as if the target weren’t moving fast enough, the D.C. Council passed a third bill—this one permanent, but still awaiting final action as this article goes to press. And this one’s the worst yet. We’ve always known D.C. wants to be a state, and now we know which state it wants to be, since the latest bill borrows major provisions of California law. These include California’s convoluted ban on “unsafe” handguns; California’s bans on “assault weapons” (the most restrictive law of that type in the country) and on .50 BMG rifles; and California’s ban on new handguns that don’t “micro-stamp” fired cartridges.

At this point, it’s unclear what will happen next in court. At the very least, Heller’s and Jordan’s lawyers will have to wait until the paint dries on D.C.’s laws and modify the lawsuit to address the District’s new and shifting attacks on the Second Amendment.

While we wait, there’s plenty of action elsewhere—notably in Chicago, where several Second Amendment cases were filed in the days after the Heller decision. In Chicago itself, NRA filed suit on behalf of its members in the city, challenging the city’s laws (which are closely based on those struck down in D.C.). In the weeks that followed, NRA also filed suit to overturn local handgun bans in the towns of Evanston, Morton Grove, Oak Park and Winnetka. All these suits had one thing in common: They would provide a clear avenue for the courts to find that the Second Amendment, and therefore the Heller decision, applies to states and cities through the Fourteenth Amendment—a doctrine known as “incorporation,” which has already protected most of the liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights from state infringement.

Some Chicago-area cases came to a quick and favorable end. Winnetka and Morton Grove promptly repealed their bans, and both cases were dismissed.

(Another town, Wilmette, repealed its handgun ban before we could file a suit.) The Evanston case was assigned to a judge who had written unfavorably about the Second Amendment in the past—but who refused to remove himself from the case. Then, Evanston amended its laws, but maintained a total ban on transporting handguns. It still prohibited handgun possession by nonresidents and possession outside the home—by storeowners, for example. Unfortunately, this was good enough for the judge, who dismissed the case. (Fortunately, NRA still has several options under consideration to continue the fight.)

The remaining legal battles in Illinois involve Chicago and Oak Park. The Oak Park case, along with two Chicago cases (one supported by NRA, the other by the Second Amendment Foundation) have all been sent to the same courtroom. Not surprisingly given the city’s deep pockets, Chicago so far has fought hard and won dismissal of NRA’s case. This outcome was no surprise—and came in a quick and “clean” decision that lays the groundwork for a prompt NRA appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and perhaps, eventually, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

These cities and towns are not the only targets for our Second Amendment litigation. Another of our earliest suits—filed less than 24 hours after the Heller decision—was against the San Francisco Housing Authority, which imposed a complete ban on firearm possession by public housing residents. Rather than fight and lose a long court battle, the agency re

TRENDING NOW
Canada, Six Months from “Confiscation Day”

News  

Monday, November 8, 2021

Canada, Six Months from “Confiscation Day”

In early 2020, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his so-called “assault weapon” ban along with a temporary amnesty period that allows the owners of newly-banned firearms to possess their property without incurring criminal liability. Canadians affected ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

Senator Grassley Blocks Gun Control on Senate Floor

News  

Friday, December 3, 2021

Senator Grassley Blocks Gun Control on Senate Floor

On December 2, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) attempted and failed to pass H.R. 8, the dangerously flawed, so-called “universal” background check bill.

The Right to Bear Arms Gets Its Day in Court

News  

Monday, November 8, 2021

The Right to Bear Arms Gets Its Day in Court

November 3 was a historic day for constitutional rights in the United States, as the U.S. Supreme Court delved into a detailed and sophisticated exploration of the meaning and scope of the Second Amendment’s right ...

Biden Administration Bans Importation of Russian Ammunition

News  

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Biden Administration Bans Importation of Russian Ammunition

The Biden Administration’s Department of State announced that it will soon prohibit the importation of Russian ammunition into the United States. According to a release on the Department of State’s website, “[n]ew and pending permit applications ...

Ohio: House Passes Constitutional Carry

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Ohio: House Passes Constitutional Carry

Today, the House of Representatives voted 60-32 to pass House Bill 227, the constitutional carry bill. It will now go to the Senate for further consideration.

Ninth Circuit Salvages CA Magazine Ban

News  

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Ninth Circuit Salvages CA Magazine Ban

Earlier this week, the Ninth Circuit upheld California’s ban against “large capacity magazines.” 

Pennsylvania: Governor Tom Wolf Vetoes Constitutional Carry

Friday, December 3, 2021

Pennsylvania: Governor Tom Wolf Vetoes Constitutional Carry

Anti-gun Democrat Governor Tom Wolf kept his promise and vetoed Senate Bill 565 on Thursday. 

New Jersey:  Gov. Murphy Pushing More Gun Control in “Lame Duck” Session

Thursday, December 2, 2021

New Jersey: Gov. Murphy Pushing More Gun Control in “Lame Duck” Session

Gov. Phil Murphy was joined this morning by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin to announce yet another assault on New Jersey gun owners.

Oregon's Anti-Gun Populace is Coming for your Guns, Again!

Monday, November 22, 2021

Oregon's Anti-Gun Populace is Coming for your Guns, Again!

Citizen petitioners have filed, and now begun to gather signatures, to take away your gun rights on the 2022 ballot:

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.