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NRA Age Suit Lost in District Court

NRA’s lawsuit to overturn the law barring 18-21 year olds from purchasing handguns has been lost in the a district court, I believe in the same district court that decided Emerson back a half decade ago:

“The Court is of the opinion that the ban does not run afoul of the Second Amendment to the Constitution,” the ruling states. “The right to bear arms is enjoyed only by those not disqualified from the exercise of the Second Amendment rights.

“It is within the purview of Congress, not the courts, to weigh the relative policy considerations and to make decisions as to the age of the customer to whom those licensed by the federal government may sell handguns and handgun ammunition.”

So Congress could say no one who has not yet attained the age of 90 is permitted to own a firearm, and that is completely within Congress’ purview? The Courts should have nothing to say about it? What other right do we treat that way?

It continues to amaze me how little regard lower courts have for Heller and McDonald. Maybe there’s sound legal reasoning involved here. I have not seen the opinion. But punting to Congress strikes me as awfully weak.

UPDATE: The opinion is here. To make a relatively short opinion even shorter, he essentially grabbed on to the following passage in 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.

Emphasis added by the District Court. Judge Cummings essentially argued that this was “a condition and qualification on the commercial sale of arms,” and thus was placed outside of the purview of the Court, leaving in the purview of Congress. But surely the Court did not mean that any condition or qualifications on the commercial sale of arms was presumptively constitutional? What if the qualification was never having received so much as a parking ticket? What if the condition was that each state could only have only FFL that was open 9AM to 11AM on the first Sunday after the first Saturday of each month? Does Judge Cummings really believe the Court meant that was entirely within the purview of Congress? That’s an absurd conclusion that renders a right a privilege.

10 Responses to “NRA Age Suit Lost in District Court”

  1. Zermoid says:

    I think this is tied to the “legal age” question, just when is a person legally an “adult” with full rights?
    Depending on who you talk to in Govt I’ve heard you are a legal adult at 16, 18, 21, and 24.

    But isn’t it the Court’s responsibility in the end to say if a law is ‘lawful’? Not Congress?

  2. A Critic says:

    ““It is within the purview of Congress, not the courts, to weigh the relative policy considerations and to make decisions as to the age of the customer to whom those licensed by the federal government may sell handguns and handgun ammunition.””

    Even assuming that – why can Congress prohibit private party sales of handguns amongst adults aged 18 and above?

  3. btr says:

    Any chance of an appeal?

  4. Sebastian says:

    It will be appealed. Most of the time we lose at the district court level, it seems.

  5. Matthew Carberry says:

    A Critic,

    Do you mean private party sales at -under- the age of 18?

    They aren’t Federally restricted (aside from prohibited persons) for 18 and up.

    Still a good question though, and I’d bet the answer is “Commerce Clause”.

  6. ParatrooperJJ says:

    Given http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/10/A/I/13/311, would not US v Miller help here?

  7. Gene Hoffman says:

    Just for clarity’s sake, the headline on this is misleading. The court granted summary judgement to the Federal Government. This case was lost, not dismissed.

    However, that’s the basic standard outcome for good 2A litigation in District Courts. Parker/Heller, McDonald, and Ezell were all lost initially in District Court.

    -Gene

  8. Sebastian says:

    You’re right. I’ve changed the title to be less misleading.

  9. Glen says:

    Judge Cummings didn’t say that “Congress could say no one who has not yet attained the age of 90 is permitted to own a firearm, and that is completely within Congress’ purview.” He simply recognized that Congress has virtually total control over federally-licensed interstate gun dealers.

    Texas citizens under 21 but over 18 are not prohibited from purchasing or owning handguns – they just can’t buy one from an FFL. It’s possible that this case might have had a different outcome if it had been brought in a state that truly prohibited handgun purchases for those under 21 – like California. But this litigation was apparently conceived as an attack on federal law and not as a more broad-based effort to secure full Second Amendment rights for everyone over the age of 18.

    And rather than “grabbing on a [short] passage from Heller,” Judge Cummings properly dealt with a very prominent and sweeping – yet totally contradictory – safe harbor that the Supreme Court chose to include in its opinion. We focus on the parts of court decisions that we like and that support our arguments, while our opponents ignore them and focus on other parts. But judges have to reconcile the entire opinion. And despite many pages of strong language about the Second Amendment, that single sentence in Heller pretty much means that all federal laws in place at the time of the decision that “impose… conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms” must not be overturned.

  10. mikee says:

    Scalia’s quote from the Heller decision was about the narrow limits of the case before the Supreme Court, not the constitutionality of all other federal and state and local laws about firearms.

    This is akin to me saying: “The sky is blue, indeed. But the color of the sky has nothing to do with the color of any other part of the world.” And then some idiot says, “The rest of the world must therefore contain absolutely nothing blue.”

    Lawyers and the judges they become say the darndest things.

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