2A Roundup for February 2024

It’s been a while since we covered any significant Second Amendment news. Nothing Earth-shattering has happened, but there’s lots of movement. Those movements could portend some very good news this year. So, let’s look at what’s happening right now, and maybe take a peek at the old crystal ball.

Rifle Training Course
I took this defensive rifle and pistol course in 2018. There were about 15 guys in the class. Some politicians want to make that illegal. (Author’s Photo)

Anti-Militia Bill

This is among the worst pieces of legislation we’ve seen in a while. Essentially, the bill aims to outlaw tactical or defensive firearms training in groups of more than three people. It would also outlaw neighborhood watch programs in case of natural disasters, like those formed during Hurricane Katrina. Even if the police are absent and/or okay with it. It also throws in a provision to limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds. You know, because gun-controlling politicians just can’t help themselves.

We won’t spend any real time on this because the bill appears dead on arrival, despite rumors that it is being rushed to the House and Senate floors. Yeah, identical bills were introduced in both houses. But between them, they have exactly 12 co-sponsors out of 533 possibles. They may not even get a committee hearing. I include this just to make you aware of what some of these people are thinking, and to head off the stories that these bills are imminent. They aren’t.

AWB Case to the Supreme Court?

Bianchi v. Brown challenges Maryland’s “assault weapons” ban. The plaintiffs won in Federal District Court, but the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals has delayed the play to keep the case from being heard at the appellate level. The 7th and 9th Circuits have engaged in similar delays.

The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) are also among the plaintiffs, and they devised a strategy aimed at breaking the legal obfuscation. The plaintiffs have filed a Writ of Certiorari directly to the United States Supreme Court, asking the high court to step in before the 4th Circuit issues its ruling, if it ever does.

Assault weapon ban
The Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition are appealing directly to the Supreme Court to make “assault weapons” bans a thing of the past. (Firearms News)

Their petition asks the following simple question: “Whether the Constitution allows the government to prohibit law-abiding, responsible citizens from protecting themselves, their families, and their homes with semiautomatic rifles that are in common use for lawful purposes.”

Now, that seems very straightforward to me, and probably to you. But, several courts have tried to justify that very prohibition. This is a brilliant move by the SAF and FPC that isn’t without precedent. Chances are that the Supreme Court will deny the motion, but it will still put the justices on notice that the appellate courts are blatantly defying the Heller, McDonald, and Bruen Decisions.

In the 9th Circuit’s case, they were specifically directed by the Supreme Court to reconsider their upholding California’s AWB in light of Bruen. But they instead kicked it back down to the Federal District Court level, where Judge Roger T. Benitez (peace be upon him) dutifully ruled it unconstitutional again. The 9th Circuit took the appeal, stayed Benitez’s decision, and the case has languished ever since. The 4th Circuit has done the same with Bianchi.

Update: Two more requests have been submitted to the Supreme Court since this article was written. The National Association for Gun Rights has filed for a Writ of Certiorari in Bevis v. Naperville which challenges the Illinois AWB. The 7th Circuit is deliberately delaying that case. The third is from SAF and FPC in the Harold v. Raoul, also challenging the Illinois law.

A word of caution: the Supreme Court doesn’t usually accept such petitions., but they have done so on Occasion. But three petitions at once may get their attention. Only four Justices are required to grant Certiorari. Here’s hoping the Court will take issue with lower courts defying their rulings. This could be the beginning of something big. And by big, I mean it could end this “assault weapons” nonsense for good. Which brings me to…

Major Gun Control Bills Pass Virginia General Assembly

Democrats wasted no time in filing reams of gun control when they won control of the Virginia General Assembly last fall. Among those bills are a 5-day waiting period to take possession of a purchased firearm; raising the age to buy a gun to 21; severely curbing concealed carry reciprocity; and, of course, banning “assault weapons.” These bills passed on a straight party-line vote, just as all pro-gun bills were defeated the same way. The passed bills now head to Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin, who has refrained from taking a stance on guns, other than to say he prefers punishing criminals to restricting responsible citizens.

Virginia State Capitol Lobby Day 2020
Tens of thousands of Virginia gun owners showed up to the Virginia Citizens Defense League’s 2020 Lobby Day to oppose Democrat gun control bills. Those bills were mostly stopped, but they are back with a vengeance in 2024. (vcdl.org)

I’m a native Virginian. It saddens and angers me to see this pushed on our state by three metro areas that make up a small percentage of the state’s localities. Unfortunately, that’s where most of the population resides, especially the DC suburbs. Those few counties drive Virginia politics these days, and it shows. I think Youngkin will veto these bills, but I wish I was certain.

Either way, Virginia is not trending in the right direction, despite over 90% of the state’s localities declaring themselves Second Amendment Sanctuaries after the last time the Democrats tried this in 2019-2020. I’d like nothing better than to see the Supreme Court put a stop to this once and for all.

Hawaii Supreme Court Ignores the Second Amendment

Hawaii is quietly one of the most anti-gun states in the Union. California, New York, and other mainland states often overshadow Hawaii. But the Aloha State nonetheless restricts its citizens’ rights just as much. But the Hawaii Supreme Court has outdone itself this time.

Hawaii resident Christopher Wilson was charged last year with carrying a firearm without a permit. Never mind that Hawaii makes obtaining a permit as difficult as possible, much as New York does. The judge refused to convict the man, saying the law violated his right to keep and bear arms under the US and Hawaii Constitutions.

The Hawaii Constitution states that, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because it mimics the US Constitution’s Second Amendment word-for-word.

But the Hawaii Supreme Court doesn’t care. The Court unanimously overturned the lower court’s decision, writing that “We read those words differently than the current United States Supreme Court. We hold that in Hawai’i there is no state constitutional right to carry a firearm in public.”

The Bill of Rights
Does the Hawaii Supreme Court consider this entire document outdated?

The Court justified this statement by saying that old laws carry no weight in modern times. I’ll quote the decision, penned by Justice Todd Eddins, directly. It sounds more like a college-aged activist rather than a supposedly seasoned judge: “The thing about the old days, they’re the old days,” Eddins wrote, before reeling off this masterpiece: “Get with the times, old man! As the world turns, it makes no sense for contemporary society to pledge allegiance to the founding era’s culture, realities, laws, and understanding of the Constitution.” The direct shot at Heller, McDonald and Bruen aside, I wonder if they feel the same about the First Amendment.

This is one of the worst-reasoned legal decisions I’ve ever read. And I’ve read a bunch of them in my professional and academic career. Hawaii’s Attorney General, predictably, lauded the decision. Here’s hoping the US Supreme Court smacks down the Hawaii Supreme Court sooner than later.

Justice Department Takes the Frames and Receivers Case to the Supreme Court

The US Department of Justice has filed for a Writ of Certiorari in Vanderstok v. Garland, which challenges the ATF’s Frames and Receivers, or “Ghost Gun,” Rule. The rule was found to be unconstitutional by the 5th Circuit, but the Justice Department has decided to appeal to the Supreme Court. Filing for Certiorari is the formal process necessary for that step.

The Supreme Court will probably accept the case, meaning we could get a ruling as early as this year. Chances are good that the high court would uphold the 5th Circuit’s ruling. It is possible, however, that the Court could deny Certiorari, meaning the 5th Circuit’s ruling will stand, leaving the Justice Department out of options. This case bears watching, especially with all the other ATF challenges in the works. We’ll keep you updated.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland
Here’s hoping the Supreme Court hands Merrick Garland a loss. (the-sun.com)

The Second Amendment is Winning

Despite nonsense laws, including laws that politicians know are likely unconstitutional when they write them, and intransigent lower courts, the Second Amendment is winning. The 4th, 7th, and 9th Circuits are sandbagging because they know how those rulings will eventually go at the US Supreme Court.

Some judges slow-walk these things hoping the Supreme Court will have a liberal majority before it hears the case. Politicians hope for the same thing when they pass unconstitutional laws. Personally, I wish that knowingly introducing and voting for unconstitutional laws carried a criminal penalty. But it doesn’t and it won’t. Those same lawmakers would have to pass such a law. That idea has as much chance of passing as do term limits.

We should also understand that laws such as those in Hawaii, New York, and what’s being attempted in Virginia create opportunities for groups like the SAF, FPC, and Gun Owners of America to challenge them in court. That’s why we have the Heller, McDonald, and Bruen Decisions to start with. In my state, the Virginia Citizens Defense League is already stepping up, just as the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association did in what became Bruen.

I know it’s frustrating. I’m right there with you. I can’t print the names I’ve called some of my state politicians recently. But even though it sometimes seems otherwise, we’re winning. If you pay attention, you’ll see that the gun controllers are relying on increasingly hysterical and untenable arguments to push their agenda. But if we stay the course, we’ll win. The gun controllers will never go away, but the increasing firearms sales numbers are telling. More people are accepting responsibility for themselves and rejecting the gun control snake oil. Hang in there.

William "Bucky" Lawson is a self-described "typical Appalachian-American gun enthusiast". He is a military historian specializing in World War II and has written a few things, as he says, "here and there". A featured contributor for Strategy & Tactics, he likes dogs, range time, and a good cigar - preferably with an Old Fashioned that has an extra orange slice.

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