Holder Defeated As Judge Rules Federal Interstate Handgun Transfer Ban Unconstitutional

U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor has declared that a U.S. ban on the interstate sales of handguns by federal firearms dealers to buyers from other states violates the U.S. Constitution in a ruling in Mance vs. Holder issued Wednesday.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor stemmed from a challenge to the ban brought by a Texas firearms dealer and a couple from the District of Columbia in July 2014.

The federal law prohibits a dealer from transferring a handgun, but not a rifle or shotgun, to an individual who does not live in the state in which the dealer’s business is located.

“While we expect the government to appeal, we are confident that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will agree with Judge O’Connor’s sound ruling,” attorney William Mateja, who represented the challengers, said in a statement.

While the ruling is important, I wouldn’t count on running over to your neighboring state to purchase a handgun just yet. The judge may have made his ruling, but the government is certain to ask for a stay and then appeal the case, and there are not rules for how FFLs can legally conduct the sales at this time.

Despite the fact that the ruling can’t be implemented immediately, it is still the latest in a string of important victories in Second Amendment cases in recent years.

Judge O’Connor found that the federal ban violated both the Second and Fifth Amendments. The law only impedes the lawful transfer of handguns across state lines, and does not impact the illicit transfer of handguns used in crimes.

The defeat of the ban was another slap in the face of outgoing anti-gun Attorney General Eric Holder who wholeheartedly supported the ban (and every other gun restriction).

Once the case finishes winding its way through the court system—which could be several more years—the law may have the practical effect of making the handgun market slightly more competitive in pricing, but it is unlikely that it will have the effect of undermining those states with poltically-motivated approved handgun lists such as Massachusetts and California.

Of particular long-term importance in Mance is that Judge O’Connor set the precedent of using the standard of strict scrutiny in his ruling. That is the most strict  level of judicial review. O’Connor stated that the federal attorneys failed to establish a compelling government interest for the ban, and that the law was not narrowly tailored to achieve that goal.