Blue States Maneuver To Sidestep Supreme Court Gun Rulings

Second Amendment rights advocates have vowed to remain vigilant against further efforts to circumvent the courts by imposing new restrictions on gun ownership.

AP/Andrew Selsky
Firearms on display at a gun shop at Salem, Oregon. AP/Andrew Selsky

As the pace of judicial victories by Second Amendment rights advocates picks up, blue state legislators are scrambling to circumvent the Supreme Court’s precedents by rewriting gun control laws in ways that maintain some restrictions.

One state looking to restrict gun rights in the wake of the Bruen decision is Oregon. In November, Oregonians voted to approve Measure 114, which would require citizens to obtain licenses, take training courses, and complete background checks if they want to purchase guns. It would also ban firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. 

Measure 114 was due to go into effect on Thursday, but a state judge in Harney County halted the law only hours after a federal court had ruled it legal. In his decision granting temporary relief, Judge Robert Raschio said that the measure would be a “deprivation of fundamental constitutional rights” and constituted “irreparable harm.”

On Wednesday, according to the Associated Press, Oregon’s attorney general asked the state’s supreme court to overturn the judge’s decision in an urgent appeal. The Oregon Department of Justice argued in its filing that Mr. Raschio got it wrong.

“Magazine capacity restrictions and permitting requirements have a proven track record: they save lives,” Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement. “We are confident the Oregon Constitution — like the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution — allows these reasonable regulations.”

One of the plaintiffs in the suit seeking to block Measure 114 was the Gun Owners of America, a Second Amendment rights group. A senior vice president of the organization, Erich Pratt, told the Sun that its victory in the case is a sign that gun rights advocates will continue to win when they challenge the new restrictive measures. 

“This is an exciting victory for our members in Oregon as the clock was winding down on securing relief from the onerous and unconstitutional requirements this law would have placed on current and future gun owners. We look forward to continuing the fight,” Mr. Pratt said. 

The executive director of Gun Owners of America, Sam Paredes, described Measure 114 as “draconian.” In a statement to the Sun, Mr. Paredes said his organization is “fully prepared to continue the process as we request a preliminary injunction at our hearing next week.”

The defendants in the case — the governor, state attorney general, and superintendent of state police — are due to respond to Judge Raschio’s order next week.

Another state moving to rework its gun regulations is New York. After Bruen, Empire State Democrats moved quickly to adopt new regulations. Eight days after the decision, Governor Hochul introduced an updated gun reform law that would grant the state wide latitude to decide who is and is not fit to own a firearm. 

The central issue of the Bruen case was whether a requirement for demonstrating “proper cause” in obtaining a concealed carry permit was constitutional. The court said it was not. 

In an effort to maintain the state’s discretion in granting licenses, Ms. Hochul’s legislation — the Concealed Carry Improvement Act — replaced the demonstration of “proper cause” requirement with a demonstration of “good moral character.” 

A county attorney from upstate New York, Stephen Button, was a consultant on a federal lawsuit aimed at striking down the CCIA. Mr. Button told the Sun that Ms. Hochul was trading one incoherent standard for another. 

“The New York State licensure regime before Bruen was an amorphous process aimed at depriving citizens of a right guaranteed to them by the Constitution,” he said, “The new standard of ‘good moral character’ is just as amorphous.” A key element of demonstrating good moral character, according to the CCIA, is turning over social media records to licensing officers. 

Some provisions of the CCIA had been voided as unconstitutional by a federal district judge at Syracuse, Glenn Suddaby. These included the creation of a gun-free zone at an expanded Times Square district of Manhattan. The state appealed Judge Suddaby’s decision, though, and it is currently pending before the riders of the Second Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals.

On Wednesday, a panel of riders allowed the provisions voided by Judge Suddaby to remain in effect while the state appeal was pending.

California legislators attempted to make similar modifications to their state’s gun laws after Bruen as well. Senate Bill 918 would have amended state law to remove the “good cause” requirement and replace it with the standard that the licensee be a “qualified person.”

The bill would have raised the age for obtaining a concealed carry permit to 21 from 18, doubled the total number of training hours to 16, and required applicants go through a background check conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice. The bill failed to pass. 

Second Amendment rights advocates have celebrated this and other recent wins, but they are vowing to remain vigilant against further efforts to circumvent the courts. “Like we have been warning anti-gun activists and politicians since the Bruen decision — fall in line with this precedent,” Mr. Paredes said.

The New York Sun

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