NRA-ILA’s Office of Litigation Counsel has been busy fighting for our members’ rights in courtrooms across the country. Things haven’t slowed down since we won New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen at the United States Supreme Court last summer—for which the court recently ordered the state of New York to pay ILA just under half a million dollars in fees. And ILA has not stopped fighting for your Second Amendment rights. We filed several new cases and continued the fight in many existing cases. This newsletter covers ILA’s efforts to defend your freedoms in court over the spring and summer of 2023.
Defending Your Right to Carry a Firearm
Legal actions have been picking up steam over the right to carry a firearm. In May, ILA sued Maryland after it completely disregarded the Supreme Court’s Bruen ruling and declared the entire state to effectively be a so-called “sensitive place.” This lawsuit was filed as the Governor was signing the legislation into law. And in September, ILA secured a preliminary injunction that blocks three portions of that law from taking effect.
Unfortunately, Maryland was not the only state to respond to the Bruen decision by blatantly ignoring it. New York and New Jersey also ignored it. New York and New Jersey were also served with lawsuits by ILA challenging their illegal actions. Trial courts issued preliminary injunctions banning those laws from taking effect, and both states appealed those decisions to Second and Third Circuits respectively.
ILA also sued New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham in September. Governor Luhan Grisham issued executive orders declaring a public health emergency due to gun violence. The following day, the Health Department issued an order banning carrying firearms in Bernalillo County and on all public parks and public lands statewide. This was done with the same laws and procedures that the state used to promulgate COVID-19 emergency orders. Not only are the carry bans unconstitutional under Bruen, but this is also an unconstitutional power grab—the governor has directly banned what the legislature has expressly permitted in the state.
Challenging Bans on Protected Arms
ILA challenged Delaware’s new so-called “assault weapon” and “large capacity magazine” bans. Rather than focusing on issues that will address actual criminal conduct, the state chose to mislabel and ban commonly owned firearms and magazines. Even worse, the state implemented these bans after the Supreme Court’s Bruen ruling—fully knowing that there is no historical tradition of regulating these common arms and that the bans are unconstitutional. The court declined to preliminary enjoin the laws from taking effect in March, but ILA is continuing the fight in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
ILA also filed a lawsuit challenging M-114 in Oregon, which implemented a mislabeled permit-to-purchase-a-firearm requirement—that does not actually allow one to purchase a firearm—and banned the possession of magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. That lawsuit was supported by several local law-enforcement agencies throughout the state who informed the court that there was no infrastructure in place for them to process permits and that there would effectively be a ban on firearm transfers. That prompted the state to concede that the permit-to-purchase requirement should not take effect until a functioning system for processing permits could be put in place. After a trial, the court upheld the Measure, and ILA appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
ILA also sued Illinois after the lame duck legislature banned so-called assault weapons and large capacity magazines. The lawsuit points out that Americans own approximately eight million more semi-automatic rifles than they do F-150 pickups, which are the most commonly owned vehicles in the country. And approximately half of all privately-owned magazines in the United States are capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Because these items are so common, they cannot be banned under the Second Amendment. The judge preliminarily enjoined that law from taking effect, and the state appealed the ruling to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed course and allowed the ban to take effect until it could issue a full decision on the appeal.
Washington state followed the other states and banned several commonly owned semi-automatic firearms. And ILA followed with another lawsuit challenging that ban. The suit is in its early stages, and the court has not issued any rulings yet.
Rounding out the ban litigation, multiple ILA lawsuits were filed challenging the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) unlawful rule on stabilizing braces. ATF can only apply federal statutes; it can’t rewrite them. But that is precisely what it did in the brace rule. Even worse, ATF had determined that equipping a firearm with a stabilizing brace did not turn it into a short-barreled rifle several times over the last decade. This about face is arbitrary and capricious and not in accordance with the law, the lawsuit argues. One of the cases is on appeal to the Eighth Circuit. The other is in the early stages.
Protecting Young Adults’ Rights
Since 2018, ILA has been challenging Florida’s ban on transferring firearms to young adults. The trial court begrudgingly upheld the statute, and a panel of the Eleventh Circuit likewise affirmed it. ILA then asked the entire Eleventh Circuit to rehear the case, and that request was granted. The court then stayed the rehearing until the Supreme Court decides United States v. Rahimi, a Second Amendment case concerning the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm by an individual with a restraining order.
ILA also filed a friend of the court brief in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals asking the court to strike Minnesota’s young-adult carry ban. The state of Minnesota believes that young adults are mature enough to hold powers of attorney and sit on criminal juries, but it nevertheless believes that they are too impulsive to exercise their right to bear arms.
ILA won an eleven-year court battle over hunting with lead ammunition in the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona. An environmental group sued the U.S. Forest Service alleging that by deferring to Arizona law, which allows hunters to use lead ammunition, the Forest Service was violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, a federal statute that was passed to regulate large-scale commercial waste operations. It was the fourth time that ILA has defeated a legal challenge seeking to ban hunting with lead ammunition over the last twelve years.
The victory was short lived. One week after winning that case, ILA intervened in another case seeking to ban lead ammunition on the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considered expanding new hunting opportunities in Canaan Valley with the caveat that lead ammunition be phased out. After getting pushback from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and many others on the proposal to phase out lead, the Fish and Wildlife Service withdrew the plans to expand hunting opportunities and phase out lead ammunition and tackle in Canaan Valley. But that wasn’t good enough for the plaintiffs, who filed a lawsuit asking the court to mandate a lead ammo ban in the refuge.
Fighting for the First Amendment
ILA also scored a legal victory in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a lawsuit challenging a California law that bans lawful firearms advertisements that may be attractive to minors. The law was designed to forbid advertisements that featured a parent hunting or shooting with a minor child. The Ninth Circuit rightly recognized that the law was overbroad and banned truthful advertisements related directly to the Second Amendment—which the First Amendment forbids.
Please stay tuned to www.nraila.org for future updates on NRA-ILA’s ongoing efforts to defend your constitutional rights.