Second Amendment

SCOTUS Gun Watch, Episode 4

The big news from this week is that the Supreme Court denied certiorari in the case arising from the Sandy Hook massacre—Remington v. Soto. As I’ve written about (here and here), the Court might have been concerned about vehicle issues with the petition. The petition raised a question about whether the federal law immunizing gun manufacturers in most situations, the Protection for Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, applied to these facts. Because the case came up from an interlocutory ruling, there was some question about the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction. But, in any event, the case may now proceed through discovery and to trial. More surprising to me than the fact that the Court denied review was the fact that there was no noted dissent from the denial.

I’ve also added one more case to the chart: Pennsylvania v. Hicks. The petition was filed a little over a month ago, but I didn’t initially include it because firearms are only tangentially involved. But, because it raises a question about how the presence of firearms affects law enforcement’s ability to conduct investigatory stops, and with increasingly loosened restrictions on public carry, I thought it worth keeping an eye on.

We also have our first briefing deadline extended into the New Year, ensuring that 2020 will bring just as much debate over guns as 2019 did.

Public Carry and Collective Action

As Michael S. Green wrote just after Heller was decided, a principal purpose of gun regulation, especially with respect to public carry, is to head off prisoner’s dilemmas.   Prisoner’s dilemmas are familiar problems in the literature on collective action, and typically take the following form:  Each individual acting in his or her own best interest makes everyone is worse off.

Domestic Violence and the Home: Hard Questions for the Second Amendment

October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and as Jake noted in his post earlier this week, the Center fortunately had a chance to help coordinate a well-attended event on the topic, which was co-sponsored by the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, the Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Coalition Against Gendered Violence, the Human Rights Law Society, the International Law Society, and the Women Law Students Association. The breadth of the sponsorship and positive response to the event were appropriate, since there is broad support for the wisdom and constitutionality of laws targeting the link between firearms and domestic violence (DV). Such laws are politically popular, and have been overwhelmingly upheld against Second Amendment challenges.

SCOTUS Gun Watch, Episode 3

Last week was another relatively quiet week on the gun docket. A few briefing deadlines were extended, and we got one new firearms-related cert petition this week in a case seeking GVR (grant, vacate, and remand; a form of summarily sending a case back to the lower court to consider in light of a recent Supreme Court case or other intervening change in law). That case argues GVR is warranted in light of last term’s Rehaif decision requiring the government to prove that an individual prohibited from possessing guns knew the status that made his possession unlawful (here, his particular immigration status).

One highlight for the week: the case arising from the Sandy Hook massacre—Remington v. Soto—which I’ve written about a couple of times (here and here), goes to its first conference this Friday. It’s possible, though unlikely, that we’ll hear news about the Court’s decision to hear the case or not in the orders coming next Tuesday after the conference. (Monday’s a federal holiday next week, so no orders then.) It’s more likely we’ll have to wait a little longer if the Court is inclined to hear the case as the Court increasingly relies on the practice of relisting a case for multiple conferences in the event it’s going to grant review.

Panel on Guns and Domestic Violence: U.S. & International Human Rights Law Perspectives

On October 14, the Center co-hosted a panel with distinguished speakers for a discussion on the role of firearms in domestic violence situations. The speakers recounted some truly disturbing statistics: about 4.5 million women have been threatened with a gun by an intimate partner; almost a million women have been shot or shot at by a partner; and a woman is five times more likely to be killed in a domestic violence situation if the abuser has access to a gun. The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women has highlighted this research that has shown that “the presence of a gun in domestic violence situations significantly increases the risk of homicide, endangering victims, other family members, bystanders and coworkers.” Center faculty co-director Darrell Miller facilitated the insightful discussion.

Scholarship and the “Constitutional Case for Gun Control”

Earlier this week, Yale law students Joshua Feinzig and Joshua Zoffer published a powerful piece in The Atlantic describing the “A Constitutional Case for Gun Control.” Inspired in part by Robert Cover’s work on the essential role of narrative in imbuing law with moral authority, they argue that the narrative-driven brief filed by the March for Our Lives Action Fund in NYSRPA “marks the beginning of a long-needed effort to offer a pro-gun-control constitutional narrative, one that calls attention to the constitutional rights and goods vindicated by gun regulation.”

The Textualist Consequentialist? Second Amendment Implications of the Title VII Arguments

There was a curious exchange in the most recent cases testing the boundaries of Title VII’s proscription against sex discrimination in employment. In R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, an employee who alleges she was fired for identifying as a transgender woman claims that that adverse action violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Much of the focus in the oral arguments for Harris Funeral Homes, and a set of closely-related sexual orientation discrimination cases heard that same day, centered on the text of the statute. No doubt part of this emphasis arose from the plaintiffs’ strategic calculation that a tight textual argument may be enough to sway one of the Court’s staunchest textualists, Justice Neil Gorsuch, even if he may not be a natural ally in these cases. But some of his questioning raised concerns that he may, in the end, be only a “faint-hearted textualist”—much as Justice Scalia confessed that “in a crunch” he might have “prove[d] a faint-hearted originalist.”

Scholarship Highlight: “Libertarian Gun Control”

Most legal scholarship and public debate about gun rights and regulation focuses on whether and how gun laws can prevent homicide—understandably so, given the astounding number of gun homicides in the United States every year. But as those closer to the debate are well aware, the majority of gun deaths are by suicide. And far less discussion has been devoted to that uncomfortable and seemingly-intractable topic.

All of which means that Ian Ayres and Fred Vars’ “Libertarian Gun Control,” just published in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, is an especially welcome addition to the literature. In it, they describe a system by which people could choose to waive their right to keep and bear arms—and to credibly communicate that decision to others, thereby setting up something of an associational marketplace. Such a system (distinct from the waiver that Dru Stevenson has discussed on this blog) could help prevent both homicides and suicides, all based on individual choice rather than traditional regulation.

New Blog Feature: SCOTUS Gun Watch, Episode 1

We’re excited to announce a new blog feature that will be a recurring Monday fixture of the blog throughout the Supreme Court’s Term. Each week, we will provide an up-to-date run down of where things stand with the Court’s firearms law and Second Amendment docket. To that end, each Monday will feature an updated chart below based on action taken at the Court throughout the prior week, including new petitions for certiorari that have been filed, Court action on currently pending petitions, changes in deadlines or notations that a case has been set for conference or relisted, etc. We’ll do our best to ensure accuracy, but if you notice anything missing or outdated, please feel free to let us know at firearmslaw@law.duke.edu.

Case Ct. Below Pet. Filed Implicated Law/Issue Status
Mance v. Barr  5th Cir. 19-Nov-18 Federal ban on out-of-state handgun purchases distributed

12-Apr-19 conf.

Rogers v. Grewal  3rd Cir. 20-Dec-18 NJ “may issue” public carry regime distributed

23-May-19 conf.

Pena v. Horan  9th Cir. 28-Dec-18 California’s Unsafe Handgun Act (microstamping, etc.) distributed

12-Apr-19 conf.

Gould v. Lipson  1st Cir. 1-Apr-19 MA “may issue” public carry regime (as implemented locally) distributed

6-June-19 conf.

Cheeseman v. Polillo N.J. 28-June-19 NJ “may issue” public carry regime relisted for 18-Oct-19 conf.
Ciolek v. New Jersey N.J. 18-July-19 NJ “may issue” public carry regime distributed

1-Oct-19 conf.

Daniel v. Armslist Wisc. 29-July-19 Scope of immunity for gun-broker website under Communications Decency Act reply due @ 1-Nov-2019
Remington Arms v. Soto Conn. 1-Aug-19 Scope of  gunmaker immunity under the Protection for Lawful Commerce in Arms Act reply due @ 18-Oct-2019
Guedes v. ATF D.C. Cir. 29-Aug-19 Ban on bump stocks resp. due 4-Nov-2019
Medina v. Barr D.C. Cir. 30-Aug-19 Ban on felon possession under 922(g)(1) (as applied) resp. due 4-Nov-2019
Worman v. Healey 1st Cir. 23-Sep-19 Ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines resp. due 25-Oct-19
Malpasso v. Hamilton 4th Cir. 26-Sep-19 MD “may issue” public carry regime resp. requested – due 18-Nov-19
Culp v. Raoul 7th Cir. 10-Oct-19 IL refusal to grant carry permits to most non-residents resp. due 14-Nov-19