Last Friday, the Center hosted its fall symposium on Gun Rights and Regulation Outside the Home. The discussions generated through the panel presentations and Q&A portion of the event were engaging and thought-provoking. We intentionally convened scholars from a broad variety of disciplines and viewpoints. Judging by the presentations, there’s no doubt that the spring issue of Law & Contemporary Problems, which will be publishing the articles that come out of the symposium, is going to be well worth the read. The event was recorded and the panel discussions can be viewed at the links below.
Month: September 2019
Jefferson Davis (not that one), a Gilchrist County Sheriff’s deputy, allegedly threatened to kill another deputy after he discovered that his girlfriend had been involved with the man. His colleagues sought and obtained a Risk Protection Order (“RPO”) under Florida’s new “red flag” law. Davis appealed, raising a number of challenges to the RPO entered against him and to Florida’s entire scheme. In Davis v. Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office, Florida’s first district court of appeal rejected those challenges. This case represents one of the few rulings on the constitutionality of “red flag” laws generally and the first on Florida’s law. The Florida court joins courts in Indiana and Connecticut in upholding these types of laws against constitutional challenge.
In the last few weeks, two new cert petitions have been filed asking the Supreme Court to review recurrent issues in litigation over the right to keep and bear arms. Below are links to the petitions and excerpts of their Questions Presented. We’ll be watching these as the Court comes back to a new Term next week.
To say the history of gun rights is full of hyperboles, misnomers, and myths would be an understatement. Time and time again, when historians examine the history of gun rights, it turns out that what is long claimed to be settled history is more nominal than real. There is an abundance of examples of this, several of which are outlined in my book Armed in America: A History of Gun Rights from Colonial Militias to Concealed Carry.
My recent research trip at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library shed much light on another historical hyperbole—that Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and Eisenhower each, on their own volition, sent the National Rifle Association (NRA) laudatory messages of support.
Last night at Duke, we held a fantastic panel discussion with distinguished guests Professors Kristin Goss & Jeffrey Swanson and North Carolina Representative Marcia Morey to discuss Extreme Risk laws, often called Red Flag laws. These are laws that allow law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from individuals that a court determines are a danger to themselves or others. If the person asking the court to temporarily remove the firearms proves their case, the court can enter what’s usually called an Extreme Risk Protection Order (or ERPO for short) that permits law enforcement to disarm the person who has been found dangerous.
In March, a federal district court in California became the first federal court in the land to strike down a ban on large-capacity magazines. In a striking opinion stretching for 86 pages, Judge Roger Benitez touted the timeless principles of “[i]ndividual liberty and freedom” when he held that California could not constitutionally prohibit the transfer or possession of magazines holding more than 10 rounds. Now, that case is on appeal in Ninth Circuit.
The government’s opening brief is here. The challengers’ response brief—filed just yesterday—is here. What’s noteworthy is that a new attorney has entered an appearance for the challengers: Paul Clement, a powerhouse Supreme Court litigator who is the only advocate in the past decade to successfully convince the Court to hear a Second Amendment challenge. He’s scheduled to argue the most recent challenge, New York City Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York, on December 2 of this year. Whatever happens in NYSRPA, the Duncan case out of California is certainly one to watch.
By now, Heller’s central holding is familiar: whatever other restrictions it may impose, the government cannot ban handgun possession in the home because “the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon.” But what “people” made that choice? Not The People who ratified the Second Amendment in 1791. For them, the “quintessential self-defense weapon” was almost certainly a musket or hunting rifle, if a firearm at all. Does it matter that, through sheer happenstance, Heller was decided in 2008 when handguns were the predominant self-defense weapon?
In 2012, Zina Daniel Haughton obtained a restraining order against her husband after he threatened to kill her. This restraining order prohibited the husband from possessing a firearm. Nonetheless, a few days later he posted a want ad on armslist.com seeking to buy a gun. He found a willing seller, arranged a meeting in a parking lot, and purchased the gun. The next day, he took the gun to Zina’s workplace and used it to murder Zina and two others before turning the gun on himself. Zina’s daughter, Yasmeen Daniel, sued Armslist for allowing the sale to occur, and has now asked the Supreme Court to review the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s unfavorable ruling.
The traditional model of constitutional rights puts the government on one side and individuals on the other; rights restrain the power of the former over the latter. But that model is a little bit over-simplified in a world of pluralistic rights disputes where constitutional interests arise on many sides simultaneously. Once one goes beyond the simple binary model, hard questions arise about who has what kind of duties with regard to rightsholders—including whether and how constitutional rights need some kind of private (that is, non-governmental) “infrastructure.” Those questions are increasingly important for the Second Amendment—I’ll try to frame them here, and offer a few tentative thoughts.
This past Thursday, I was delighted to participate in the 36th Annual Jefferson B. Fordham Debate at the University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law in Salt Lake City.