Court battle update: the NRA fights to enforce--and extend--gun owners' rights.
Our recent victories at the Supreme Court marked a beginning, rather than an end. Many believe that the Supreme Court is the final word on any given subject. But Supreme Court rulings do not enforce themselves. Follow-up lawsuits are required to apply the rulings to other laws, and that's exactly what we're doing.
In its District of Columbia v. Heller ruling in 2008, the Court held that the Second Amendment protects a fundamental, individual right for all Americans and that "the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon." That case overturned the handgun ban in Washington, D.C. This year's ruling in McDonald v. Chicago invalidated a similar handgun ban by extending the Heller ruling beyond D.C.'s borders, to all levels of government.
But both D.C. and Chicago continue to defy the Court's rulings, and other laws at the federal and state level arbitrarily deny the rights of law-abiding Americans who have reached the age of 18 and are considered adults in nearly every other context. We have already set out to enforce the Court's rulings through follow-up lawsuits in D.C., Chicago and now Texas.
The D.C. and Chicago lawsuits were forced by the cities' own actions. Remaining bitterly opposed to the Supreme Court's rulings, both jurisdictions created a maze of irrational barriers to lawful handgun ownership. These restrictions are not a blanket ban, but they achieve much the same result. Both cases seek to sweep aside restrictive regulations and allow residents the full exercise of their rights.
The new restrictions in Washington require residents who want to keep a gun at home to be fingerprinted and photographed by police, provide a five-year work history and note their intended use of the handgun. Residents must register every firearm they own every three years. Applicants must allow police to run ballistic tests on each gun they register. Firearms defined by the city as "assault weapons" are banned, as are magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The suit was filed on behalf of Supreme Court plaintiff Dick Heller and other D.C. gun owners. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), a trial court upheld the laws, but the appeal has already been argued before a federal appeals court.
In Chicago, the new restrictions came just four days after the Court issued its ruling in the McDonald case. The city's so-called "Responsible Gun Ownership Ordinance" includes a ban on all gun sales in the city, a ban on possession of firearms for self-defense outside the "home" (even in an attached garage), a ban on having more than one assembled and operable firearm in the home per licensed gun owner and a training requirement to obtain a Chicago Firearm Permit. The city's required range training would be impossible, since Chicago has also made it illegal to operate a shooting range within city limits.
Restrictive city laws aren't the only targets for Second Amendment litigation. In Texas, the NRA has joined in two lawsuits filed by James D'Cruz, who is 18 years old. His suits challenge federal and state laws that infringe on the Second Amendment rights of people under 21. At the federal level, the Gun Control Act of 1968 denies 18- to 20-year-olds the right to purchase handguns from federally licensed dealers. And Texas law doesn't allow issuance of Right-to-Carry permits to people under 21, other than current members of the armed forces or honorably discharged veterans.
D'Cruz and other 18-year-old adults should have all the rights that citizenship entails. They can vote and serve on juries. Young men even have to register with Selective Service in case there's a new draft. But they are denied the right to purchase or carry "the quintessential self-defense weapon" until their 21st birthdays.
Filing these cases was a vital step toward fully implementing the recent Supreme Court decisions and guaranteeing all law-abiding citizens their fundamental freedoms. These cases and others will go on until the Court's rulings are fully enforced throughout America.
Executive Director, NRA Institute for Legislative Action