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NRA’s Preference for Broad Suits

I was in Hawaii when I heard that NRA filed suit against the federal law that bars 18-20 year olds from purchasing firearms. I was pleased even more to learn that the case was brought in Texas, which is in the more gun friendly Fifth Circuit, and seemed to have a carefully selected plaintiff that got around the Texas state law that generally prohibits handguns to 18-20 year olds (there’s an exception for military and honorably discharged veterans, and the plaintiff is a veteran). But John Richardson points out over at No Lawyers that the case is also challenging Texas’ prohibition on carry licenses to 18-20 year olds. What?

Why complicate the case with that question? Truth is, there’s not much that can justify removing a constitutional right for 18-20 year old individuals, and the courts will probably say a lot of useful things in deciding such a case. I think NRA is on really solid ground with that part of the case. Since it’s federal law, it didn’t even really need incorporation. But Texas is hardly an outlier in restricting licenses to carry a firearm to those 21 or older. Indiana is actually the only state I know of that will issue to 18-20 year olds (though I think there are a few more). I don’t think this is the circumstance where I want to get the courts to recognize a right to carry a firearm. While the Fifth Circuit (same circuit that ruled the Second Amendment was an individual right in Emerson) is certainly more gun friendly than, say, the Second, I would note that they still upheld Lautenberg under their standard of review.

Benson is also a very broad case, that basically throws everything and the kitchen sink at Chicago. This would indicate NRA is preferring to back broad cases. I don’t think this is a wise strategy, as I think we’re better off moving cases forward that ask the courts to decide on narrowly tailored questions, with plaintiffs carefully chosen, and optimized for those circumstances. This is SAF’s strategy, so far. That’s not to say I think NRA’s strategy is doomed, by any means, but it seems to me that SAF has the better strategy here. I’d be interested to hear more legally trained observers opinion on this.

UPDATE: OK, it seems I read hastily, and they are actually two separate cases.

3 Responses to “NRA’s Preference for Broad Suits”

  1. Just to clarify on what the NRA seems to be doing in Texas. They filed two suits simultaneously – one against BATF, Kenneth Melson (Dep Director), and Eric Holder. This is the lawsuit that challenges the Sec. 922(b)(1) restriction on sales of handguns to those 21 and over.

    The second lawsuit is against the State of Texas and their concealed carry license. I think the reason that they saw this law as low hanging fruit is that it does allow *some* 18 to 20 year olds to obtain a concealed carry permit. Texas law allows those 18-20 year olds in the military or honorably discharged to obtain concealed carry permits. They are seeking to overturn the restrictions on 18-20 years olds on the groups that it treats one group of 18-20 year olds differently from another.

    A case can be made that the military provides weapons training, etc. and this group has proven itself more responsible than the run of the mill 18 year old.

    However, I think the NRA has adopted the Gura approach and gotten a great plaintiff. James D’Cruz participated in NJROTC for 4 years, had weapons training, was a competitor on the shooting team for two years, and shot at the regional and national level.

  2. WallPhone says:

    Link is a bit off.

    Not exactly a trained adviser, but this looks like the NRA is sticking in their toe to test the water. Affects a minority temporarily and isn’t such a big deal if the status-quo remains.

    I just hope the NRA can distinguish their big toe from an Achilles heel of a case law measure of “reasonable”.

  3. Kharn says:

    I feel the NRA just wants to win *something*, while SAF has a specific goal and a plan to accomplish solely that goal.

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