Yesterday, a District Court in Fort Worth, Texas, struck down a provision in the 1968 Gun Control Act that prohibited Americans from buying handguns in any state that is not their own. The measure, the judge wrote, could not pass the strict “scrutiny test” that he applied. There was, he noted, no “founding-era thinking that contemplated that interstate, geography-based, or residency-based firearm restrictions would be acceptable,” insufficient evidence that “the federal interstate handgun transfer ban is narrowly tailored,” and no way of getting around the problem that the law “directly burdens law-abiding, responsible citizens who seek to complete otherwise lawful transactions for handguns.” In consequence, the rule violated the Second Amendment and it was struck down.
For good measure, the judge also suggested that the law could not survive intermediate scrutiny, and that it was unconstitutional on Fifth Amendment grounds, too. This, let’s say, was not a good day for Eric Holder.
One imagines that the Department of Justice will appeal the case, and that it will be awarded a stay. Eventually, the case will hit the Fifth Circuit, and, possibly, even the Supreme Court. When that happens, I would guess that there is a good chance the plaintiffs will prevail. In the meantime, however, the government is scare mongering as best it can. Yesterday evening, The Washington Times reported that both the DOJ and its friends in the gun-control camp are livid:
“We are reviewing the opinion and considering next steps,” said Nicole Navas, a spokeswoman for the civil division at the U.S. Department of Justice, who declined further comment.
Mr. Gura expects the Justice Department to appeal the decision and perhaps get the ruling stayed, keeping previous law in place until appeals are heard.
“For us, it’s a highly disappointing decision, the court made a number of errors in regard to other Second Amendment case law that’s out there — it overestimated the burden on the plaintiffs and underestimated the evidence the government provided about how this law protects public safety,” said Michael McLively, a staff attorney with the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which advocates for stronger gun regulations nationwide.
Though his group doesn’t list the District’s gun laws in its state rankings because it isn’t a state, Mr. McLively said, it has some of the country’s most restrictive laws, which Wednesday’s decision would undermine.
This is a rather predictable reaction. But it’s also a peculiar one, for if this provision of the 1968 Gun Control Act is so absolutely necessary — and if its being overturned will make the country so much less safe — one has to wonder why Senate Democrats offered to repeal it as part of 2013’s Toomey-Manchin bill? As Politifact notes:
In some cases, the amendment loosened restrictions on guns. It would have authorized interstate sales through licensed dealers — currently limited to rifles and shotguns — to include handguns, and eased other restrictions on sales across state lines. For example, active military members would be allowed to buy firearms in their home states, not just where they’re stationed.
I understand, of course, that this was a sweetener, and that those who offered it would have preferred that the law stayed the same. And yet one does not offer provisions within a gun control bill that one thinks are going to seriously endanger the country. Wonders never cease, but I can only imagine that it will be difficult for Eric Holder and co. to run around the country pretending that the sky is falling when their friends in Congress are on the record presenting this supposedly horrible change as little more than a bartering tool.