Appellate and District Courts Grapple with Second Amendment Rights Post-Bruen
Second Amendment Rights Challenged Post Bruen
In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court, through the New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Bruen case (142 S. Ct. 2111, 2022), altered the legal landscape regarding the evaluation of restrictions on Second Amendment rights. This change has sparked a wave of challenges nationwide, the constitutionality of criminal laws limiting the right to possess firearms.
Rahimi's Unconstitutional Firearm Possession
A recent case in the Dallas Metroplex area sheds light on these challenges. In Rahimi, No. 21-11001, the defendant faced charges for possessing firearms while under a civil protective order, following activities that raised concerns. Despite the explicit prohibition in the protective order, Rahimi moved to dismiss the indictment under 18 USC 922(g)(8), claiming unconstitutionality. Initially unsuccessful, the Bruen case prompted a rehearing, ultimately leading to a groundbreaking decision.
Bruen Test: Protecting Second Amendment Rights
Bruen set forth a critical test to evaluate the constitutionality of firearm restrictions. The court clarified that when the Second Amendment covers an individual's conduct, the government must prove that the regulation aligns with the historical tradition of firearm regulation. This means demonstrating a historical precedent that justifies the restriction.
Dissecting the Prosecutor's Argument: In Rahimi's case, prosecutors argued that Bruen and Heller restricted Second Amendment rights to "law-abiding, responsible citizens." However, the court rejected this argument, emphasizing that such a limitation lacked clarity and consistency. The court pointed out that historically prohibited groups, like felons and the mentally ill, were exceptions explicitly mentioned in Heller.
The Limiting Principle Issue: Further, the court questioned the absence of a true limiting principle in the argument, raising concerns about potential overreach. If applied broadly, it could lead to the exclusion of various groups, such as speeders or political nonconformists, from Second Amendment protection.
Bruen Test Application in Rahimi: Applying the Bruen test to Rahimi's case, the court determined that his possession of firearms fell within the purview of the Second Amendment. To constitutionally restrict his right, the government had to demonstrate a historical tradition justifying such regulation. However, the evidence presented by prosecutors failed to establish a sufficient analogue to the proposed statute.
The aftermath of the Bruen case has ushered in a new era of challenges against firearm restrictions. The decision in Rahimi highlights the importance of scrutinizing the historical tradition supporting such regulations. As defendants across the nation question the constitutionality of firearm-related criminal laws, the legal landscape continues to evolve, shaping the future of Second Amendment rights.
Update: AG Garland Vows to Appeal Decision in Rahimi
The Attorney General's Office made the following statement regarding the 5th Circuit's Holding in Rahimi:
The Justice Department tonight issued the following statement from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland following the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in United States v. Rahimi.
“Nearly 30 years ago, Congress determined that a person who is subject to a court order that restrains him or her from threatening an intimate partner or child cannot lawfully possess a firearm. Whether analyzed through the lens of Supreme Court precedent, or of the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment, that statute is constitutional. Accordingly, the Department will seek further review of the Fifth Circuit’s contrary decision.”
The statement appears to bristle at the idea of a person who previously received a domestic violence protective order being able to carry a firearm. Whatever a person believes about that concept, Bruen appears to be clear on the issue. The text of the constitution controls most discussions around this topic.
In a landmark decision, the Western District of Texas has declared a significant federal statute, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(8), unconstitutional in the case of Perez-Gallan. This ruling, influenced by the recent Bruen decision, marks a pivotal moment in firearm challenges, impacting cases involving family violence protective orders. This article provides a simplified overview of the case for easy comprehension.
Background of Perez-Gallan
In the case of Perez-Gallan (4:22-cr-00427-DC, W.D. Tex.), the district court ruled on the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(8) post-Bruen, ultimately granting the defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment. Section 922(g)(8) criminalizes individuals subject to court orders related to family violence protective measures. This statute makes it a crime for individuals under specific court orders that involve:
- (A) A court hearing with notice and an opportunity for the person to participate.
- (B) Restraining the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child.
- (C) Inclusion of a finding that the person poses a credible threat to the safety of the intimate partner or child, or explicit prohibition of the use of force.
Following a thorough legal and historical analysis in line with Bruen's framework, the court concluded that 922(g)(8) lacked the necessary historical support. According to Bruen, the constitutionality of gun regulations now hinges solely on historical inquiry. The court emphasized that the government failed to demonstrate that 922(g)(8) aligns with the historical tradition of firearm regulation in the nation.
In embracing the principles outlined in Bruen, the court unequivocally stated that the government's inability to prove alignment with historical traditions renders 922(g)(8) unconstitutional. The court firmly declined to insert its own public policy concerns, aligning with Bruen's framework. Consequently, the court held that 922(g)(8) is unconstitutional, setting a precedent for challenges related to family violence protective orders.
The Perez-Gallan case showcases the impact of Bruen on firearm challenges, particularly in cases involving family violence protective orders. This historic ruling emphasizes the critical role historical analysis plays in determining the constitutionality of firearm regulations. As the legal landscape evolves, this decision holds significance for future cases and discussions surrounding Second Amendment rights.