If you’ve been looking at recent gun-law news, you might be shocked at the pace at which things are happening. I’ve been surprised at how widespread legal opinions are piling up — and in significant opinions — all across the country. For now, I’m ignoring new gun laws in New York State and California, because I believe at least portions of state laws in those anti-firearms jurisdictions will be overturned as unconstitutional. But here are some changes that might have flown under your radar that are worth knowing about.
On September 23, 2022, the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) announced that United States District Judge Maryellen Noreika issued an order enjoining (blocking) Delaware’s bans on self-manufacturing and possession of home-built firearms in its Rigby v. Jennings lawsuit. This will protect, for the moment, the self-manufacturing of 80% firearms, which are not firearms yet, of course.
“These statutes burden constitutionally protected conduct because possession of firearms and firearm frames and receivers is within the scope of the Second Amendment’s right to ‘keep and bear Arms’ and Defendant has not shown that these firearms and components are not commonly owned by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes,” wrote Judge Noreika in her opinion. “Further, Defendant has offered no evidence that these statutes are consistent with the nation’s history of firearm regulation.”
The Court went on to hold that “the right to keep and bear arms implies a corresponding right to manufacture arms. Indeed, the right to keep and bear arms would be meaningless if no individual or entity could manufacture a firearm. Thus, if possessing untraceable firearms is protected by the Second Amendment, then so too is manufacturing them.”
On September 19, a federal judge in the Western District of Texas ruled that a law which prohibits the acquisition of firearms by someone who is under felony indictment violates the Second Amendment, invalidating a major provision of the Gun Control Act of 1968. The case from the Western District of Texas is United States v. Quiroz, and the federal law at the center of Quiroz is codified at 18 U.S.C. 922(n). It states:
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.
As the Quiroz decision explained, moreover, grand jury proceedings are entirely one-sided — with the jury hearing only from the prosecution — and the accused does not enjoy the same due process protections that apply during a criminal trial. U.S. District Judge David Counts wrote, “The nature of grand jury proceedings is one such area that casts a shadow of constitutional doubt on [making a false statement on a gun form]. Some feel that a grand jury could indict a burrito if asked to do so.” Counts also wrote in the decision, “The Second Amendment is not a ‘second class right.’ No longer can courts balance away a constitutional right. After Bruen, the Government must prove that laws regulating conduct covered by the Second Amendment’s plain text align with this Nation’s historical tradition. The Government does not meet that burden.”
On September 14, Robert J. Contee III, chief of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, adopted an emergency repeal of the city’s ban on carrying more than twice the number of rounds of ammunition a licensed individual’s gun can hold — more than 20 rounds. He did so to head off a looming decision on a possible injunction under the new Bruen standard for reviewing gun cases, brought by none other than Dick Heller.
On September 2, 2022, Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) secured a partial victory in VanDerStok v. Garland, in the form of a partial and limited injunction in its lawsuit challenging the ATF’s rule that would create new terms and enact a slew of regulations for the agency to enforce. “The Final Rule’s redefinition of ‘frame or receiver’ conflicts with the statute’s plain meaning,” wrote Federal District Court Judge Reed O’Connor in his order. “The definition of ‘firearm’ in the Gun Control Act does not cover all firearm parts. It covers specifically ‘the frame or receiver of any such weapon’ that Congress defined as a firearm. 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3)(B). That which may become a receiver is not itself a receiver.”
On August 25, FPC announced a victory in Andrews v. McCraw, its Second Amendment lawsuit that challenged a ban on handgun carry by young adults in the State of Texas.
“The issue is whether prohibiting law-abiding 18-to-20-year-olds from carrying a handgun in public for self-defense is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation,” wrote Judge Mark Pittman in his opinion. “Based on the Second Amendment’s text, as informed by Founding-Era history and tradition, the Court concludes that the Second Amendment protects against this prohibition. Texas’s statutory scheme must therefore be enjoined to the extent that law-abiding 18-to-20-year-olds are prohibited from applying for a license to carry a handgun.”
On September 20, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw appealed the Andrews v. McCraw outcome.