Gun Owners, 2A Groups Challenge California ‘Assault Weapon’ Ban

AR-15 with Magpul D60 mag and 30 round PMAGs

California has had a ban on many otherwise ordinary semi-autos since 1989 (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Three gun owners allied with pro-gun groups filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday against California officials challenging the state’s “assault weapon” ban. The gun owners — James Miller, Patrick Russ, and Ryan Peterson — argue that the state’s longstanding prohibition on many commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms violates the Second Amendment.

The lawsuit names California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and others as defendants and is supported by the Firearms Policy Coalition, Firearms Policy Foundation, Second Amendment Foundation, the California Gun Rights Foundation and San Diego County Gun Owners, the latter of which has signed on as a co-plaintiff.

“The government cannot ban the constitutionally-protected firearms at issue in this case,” said attorney George M. Lee, representing the gun owners. “We look forward to proving that the State’s statutes, policies, and practices at issue, in this case, are both unconstitutional and irrational.”

The 19-page complaint argues that the firearms banned by the current law are “exactly the sorts of lawful weapons in common use that law-abiding people possess at home for lawful purposes and exactly what they would bring to service in militia duty should such cause be necessary.” Going on to hold that the Second Amendment is not a second-class right, the filing argues the increasing layers of bans established in California since the state first moved to outlaw certain guns in 1989 continue to step on that right with increasingly heavy boots.

While the three gun owners in the case admit they own AR-15-style firearms, their guns have been retrofitted to have fixed magazines as mandated by state law to be compliant– unlike the same rifles ordinarily found in virtually every other state that has no such requirement. This requirement, outlines the filing, is incompatible with a ruling issued by a federal court in March that found the state’s prohibition on the possession of large-capacity magazines was unconstitutional.

“This is a straight-forward case to protect our clients’ constitutional rights and property,” said John Dillon, an attorney for the gun owners. “The State of California’s ban on these firearms will fail constitutional scrutiny for the same reasons that its ban on firearm magazines did.”

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Gun Control Advocates Pile on to Derail Supreme Court 2A Case

A rack of Springfield muskets and rifles

A case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court could see a New York City gun restriction knocked down, setting what gun control advocates fear could set a precedent. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

This week saw a flurry of activity as lawmakers and gun control groups weigh in on a case before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging a New York gun restriction.

Over a dozen new legal briefs were posted Monday in the case brought by gun owners challenging the constitutionality of the Big Apple’s “premises permit” scheme, a local New York City law that drastically restricts the ability to leave one’s premises with a firearm. The new filings come from five Senate Democrats — Sheldon Whitehouse, Mazie Hirono, Richard Blumenthal, Richard Durbin, and Kirsten Gillibrand as well as 139 Dems in the House, with the lawmakers taking New York’s side.

“Legislatures, from the municipal to the national, should be free to adopt common-sense solutions to our nation’s gun violence epidemic that do not infringe core Second Amendment rights, without limiting those solutions only to the ‘least restrictive’ means or the most historically analogous method,”House Democrats argue in their brief.

Similar filings came from the states of New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia as well as anti-gun groups such as Everytown and March for Our Lives, all angling to insulate the city from a ruling which could prove to be a huge victory for Second Amendment advocates.

While the city’s restriction on taking firearms from an owner’s licensed premises to a second home or shooting range outside of the city was previously upheld by lower and appellate courts, the Supreme Court agreed in January to hear a further challenge to the law — the first such move by the court on a major gun case since 2010. This triggered a response by New York City officials to try to short circuit the case while local and state lawmakers repealed the restriction, arguing that the subject was moot.

Nonetheless, the nation’s high court has remained steadfast and kept the case on their docket, setting the stage for the challenge to continue. Since then, 120 Republican GOP members of Congress have filed a brief in support of the gun owners, followed by another brief submitted by the allied attorneys general or governors of 24 red states. Add to this are separate briefs from dozens of gun rights groups ranging from Gun Owners of California and the Firearms Policy Coalition to Black Guns Matter, the Liberal Gun Club, and the Pink Pistols.

Importantly, the U.S. Justice Department has also gone on record as being against New York’s gun restriction with the office of Noel Francisco, the U.S. Solicitor General, saying, “The ban all but negates the textually protected right to bear arms, and interferes with the right to keep arms as well.”

The Supreme Court has distributed the case for their October conference.

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What Does ‘AR’ Stand For?

AR-15

AR-15 by Springfield Armory. (Photo: Guns.com)

While many are quick to point fingers at the anti-gun demographic for uninformed firearm jargon mis-labelling AR, plenty gun-friendly folks are guilty of it, too. Common misconceptions are that AR means “automatic rifle,” “assault rifle,” and on the rare occasion “absolutely radical.” But the truth is the abbreviation represents the company that designed the platform.

AR stands for Armalite Rifles, the name of the company that designed the rifle in the 1950s. The Armalite company’s design and subsequent ties to the military M16 rifle has led to endless confusion with AR-15 rifles. In fact, civilian sporting rifles like the AR-15 and AR-10 are mistakenly associated with their military counterparts based on looks alone rather than very different operation.

Neither colors nor furniture nor features make AR-platform rifles any more or less dangerous than other rifles. The designation refers simply to semi-automatic, magazine fed rifles that are most often centerfire, but can be rimfire as well. AR-style rifles are sold at American gun stores every day and used for hunting, shooting competitions, and just general range time merriment.

With debate over AR rifles at an all-time high, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry’s trade group, has tried to correct the confusion by introducing the term modern-sporting rifle into the discussion. The phrase means ARs and other similar platforms. The NSSF estimates there are more than 16 million MSRs in civilian hands.

While ARs share aesthetics and many features, the biggest difference separating them from an assault rifle is a select-fire option. ARs are semi-automatic only, so a single trigger-pull equals one shot. Full-auto, which covers a burst option, can fire continuously by holding the trigger down.

Since ARs function like any other semi-auto rifle – one trigger pull, one shot fired – they’re regulated that way as well, so any U.S. citizen of adult age can purchase one from a gun store after they pass a background check.

Check out the great selection of handguns, rifles and shotguns inside the Guns.com Vault and collection of Certified Used Guns.

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Bill to Require Those Wanting Body Armor to Get FBI Permission

A mannequin wearing a plate carrier

Under Schumer’s measure, those who aren’t law enforcement would need to get a green light from the FBI to get body armor– and show a reason why they need it. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Legislation promised in the U.S. Senate would make the legal sale of body armor a “may issue” process signed off on by federal law enforcement.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, announced his legislation on Sunday to require FBI permission before anyone except law enforcement could buy what he termed “sophisticated body armor,” setting a bar that would require a clear purpose, such as an occupational requirement, for the buyer to seek the safety equipment.

“The bottom line here is that the ease by which one can acquire wares of war demands the FBI sets reasonable regulations on who can get it,” said Schumer, who plans to introduce his bill after the current Senate recess.

Even if Schumer’s proposal does not make it into law, it is already against the law for criminals to add body armor to their toolkit. Since 2002, it has been illegal under federal law for convicted felons to possess body armor of any sort. This has been prosecuted in U.S. courts even in states that do not criminalize the possession of body armor.

According to Schumer’s office, one study found that 5 percent of a group of 110 active shooters between 2000 and 2012 used body armor.

“Shockingly, with the click of a mouse, the scroll of a thumb or the dialing of a phone, just about anyone can order-up the kind of advanced armor or tactical law enforcement gear we see used in wars or all-out law enforcement raids, and that is unacceptable and needs to change,” said Schumer.

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New Hampshire Governor Vetoes 3 Gun Control Bills

Taurus 1911 with red white and blue patriotic theme

Sununu told lawmakers the bills would have little to no effect on crime but would violate the “constitutional rights of law-abiding New Hampshire citizens.” (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu on Friday kept his promise to New Hampshire’s Democrat-controlled state legislature that gun control isn’t on his to-do list.

Sununu scuttled a trio of anti-gun proposals sent to his desk that would have required background checks on private firearms transfers, expanded “gun-free zones” around schools, and created a waiting period on gun sales. Describing them and “anti-second amendment bills” and pointing to the state’s low crime rate, he spilled veto ink on all three.

“These bills would not solve our national issues nor would they prevent evil individuals from doing harm, but they would further restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding New Hampshire citizens,” said Sununu.

Of the measures, HB 109 would bar private firearms transfers in most cases without a background check performed by a licensed dealer.

The second bill, HB 514, would tack on an extra three days to the time between a gun purchase and its transfer. The time excludes weekends and holidays.

The third bill, HB 564, was sent to Sununu last week and aims to further narrow who can bring legal firearms on school grounds. Lawful gun owners with a firearm in their vehicle — New Hampshire is a constitutional carry state — would be subject to a class “A” misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,000 fine, should they step out of their car with a gun, even while picking up a student.

The three-bill package was opposed by state and national gun rights groups while anti-gun organizations such as Giffords supported the measures.

None of the proposals passed the legislature with enough support to override a veto.

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Elizabeth Warren: Hike Gun, Ammo Taxes to as much as 50 Percent

Gold plated Auto-Ordnance Thompson

Warren wants to raise the current federal excise tax to 30 percent on firearms and 50 percent on ammunition, a move that she says will both shrink the number sold every year and levy funds for more gun control efforts. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren over the weekend announced her gun control platform, which includes bans, licensing requirements and a big jump in taxes.

The senior U.S. Senator from Massachusetts lifted the curtain on her sweeping 3,500-word gun control initiative while speaking at Everytown’s “Presidential Gun Sense Forum,” alongside other candidates for the 2020 nomination. Besides the increasingly standard raft of promising to restart the federal assault weapon ban, mandating universal background checks, establishing “red flag laws” and raising the minimum age to purchase guns to 21, Warren promised to move on several other restrictions as well.

“As president, I will immediately take executive action to rein in an out-of-control gun industry — and to hold both gun dealers and manufacturers accountable for the violence promoted by their products,” Warren said.

A big stick the former law school professor promised to bring against the firearms industry is to raise the longstanding Pittman-Robertson Act excise taxes paid by gun and ammunition manufacturers. Since the 1930s-era tax was established, guns made or imported into the country for commercial sale are taxed at 10 percent while ammunition intended for the consumer market is levied at 11 percent. These funds are channeled through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to state conservation agencies in line with the number of hunting licenses to pay for such things as hunter’s education, public shooting ranges, and animal habitat.

“It’s time for Congress to raise those rates — to 30 percent on guns and 50 percent on ammunition — both to reduce new gun and ammunition sales overall and to bring in new federal revenue that we can use for gun violence prevention and enforcement of existing gun laws,” Warren said.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, for the first quarter of 2019, 628 manufactures and importers forked over $155.6 million in Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax (FAET). Since Pittman-Robertson was enacted, the firearms industry has paid more than $12.5 billion to Uncle Sam in addition to other regulatory taxes and fees.

“Firearms and ammunition manufacturers already pay an excise tax on every rifle, shotgun, handgun and each round produced,” Mark Oliva, director of public affairs with the NSSF, told Guns.com. “That excise tax is what funds conservation. Sen. Warren’s anti-capitalism animus is combining with her disdain of Second Amendment liberties for one of the most anti-businesses and freedom-killing proposals on the campaign trail yet.”

Oliva said that if Warren were serious about addressing crimes committed with firearms, she would insist on bringing up the Federal Firearms Licensee Protection Act which would strengthen penalties for those who commit burglaries and robberies of gun retailers.

“We would encourage the senator to address the criminals who commit the crimes, not the law-abiding gun owners and lawful manufacturers who provide the means to exercise Second Amendment rights,” said Oliva.

Gun licensing, rationing and dumping the filibuster

Moving past bans, taxes, background checks, and gun seizure laws, Warren promised to quickly move forward with further anti-gun legislation that she would “sign it into law within my first 100 days.” This would include a mandatory one-week waiting period for all firearm purchases and capping gun purchases by individuals to one per month.

Citing the defeat of a renewed federal assault weapons ban and several rounds of rejected expanded background checks proposals due to the inability of Democrats to cough up 60 out of 100 votes in the Senate to overcome a conservative filibuster, Warren said the political procedure would be tossed. A tactic seen in the chamber going back to the 19th Century to block legislation that was not overly popular, the current 60-vote benchmark has been in place since 1975, adopted by the Democrat-controlled 94th Congress who at the time controlled 61 seats.

According to poll aggregator Real Clear Politics, Warren is polling in second place across the crowded Democrat field, just behind former Vice President Joe Biden.

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Bipartisan Gun Seizure Bill Promised in Congress

A so-called “red flag” bill to allow for temporary gun seizures is being developed in a joint effort between Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., have crossed the aisle to put the finishing touches on a proposed Emergency Risk Protection Order statute that would allow local courts to authorize law enforcement to temporarily suspend the gun rights of someone thought to be at risk. The proposal would provide grants and incentives for states to adopt such a measure on their own.

“Time to enact common-sense legislation in Congress to empower states to deal with those who present a danger to themselves and others — while respecting robust due process,” said Graham, who heads the important Senate Judiciary Committee, on Monday.

First adopted in Blumenthal’s home state in 1999, such laws typically allow for family members or police to petition a court to order an individual’s guns and firearms permits to be seized while simultaneously flagging them in federal background check databases to bar new purchases. The affidavit process can typically either be filed for an emergency ex-parte hearing, which does not require the subject to appear in court, or a more standard hearing where the individual has the chance to present a case to retain their gun rights.

Those who have their guns seized can later petition to have their rights reinstated but opponents to such laws point out this puts the burden of proof on the individual rather than the court system, which can be a costly and sometimes daunting process. The orders typically last for one year but can be extended.

Some argue these types of laws have gone too far in some cases, violating constitutional rights and earning them the reputation of “turn in your neighbor” laws. This has not stopped their increased adoption and expansion in recent years–  with some proposals to allow even school employees such as guidance counselors and teachers as well as the employers and co-workers of a subject to file for such orders. Second Amendment groups have blasted the ERPO process, arguing it provides no structure for those deemed at risk to receive help, or those supposedly believed dangerous to be taken into custody. Further, they point to due process concerns and raise the issue that the laws are simply unneeded.

“If a person is an actual threat to themselves or others, or engaging in criminal activity, then there are thousands of existing federal, state, and local laws by which families, friends, or law enforcement can more appropriately and effectively respond to those facts and circumstances,” said the Firearms Policy Coalition on the subject of red flag laws on Monday.

On the opposite side of the coin, local, regional and national anti-gun groups enthusiastically support ERPO laws. A Bloomberg-allied gun control organization in Washington spent $4 million, largely garnered from a handful of wealthy donors, to win support for such an initiative from voters in the Evergreen State in 2016.

Graham and Blumenthal’s legislation could move quickly through Congress, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, this week saying he was ready to heed President Trump’s call for bipartisan, bicameral cooperation on such issues.

“Senate Republicans are prepared to do our part,” said McConnell. “Today, I spoke with Chairman Graham of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chairman Wicker of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Chairman Alexander of the Senate HELP Committee. I asked them to reflect on the subjects the president raised within their jurisdictions and encouraged them to engage in bipartisan discussions of potential solutions to help protect our communities without infringing on Americans’ constitutional rights.”

The Democrat-controlled U.S. House has already passed legislation for universal background checks and other gun control initiatives this session.

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