Why Second Amendment Groups Look To Courts For Help

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

There’s an old saying about how there’s nothing so permanent as a temporary government program. I’m not sure I agree with that. After all, laws that violate the Second Amendment don’t really seem to go much of anywhere, either.

Oh, it happens at the state level, but when you consider the mindboggling number of gun laws in this country, there really aren’t many that seem to go away.

At the federal level, even suggesting the repeal of a gun control law is treated as heresy, even by some who consider themselves pro-gun.

Luckily, there’s an option. While legislatures don’t want to remove gun control laws that are on the books, there’s another branch of the government that is willing to do so.

The trio of cases are part of a wide-ranging legal campaign by gun ownership advocates who have headed to the federal courts over the past several years with constitutional challenges that target state gun regulations from a variety of angles.

Emboldened by a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the Second Amendment allowed an individual right to possess firearms for self-defense and other purposes, and a federal court that since 2016 has been seeded with a new batch of judges who generally favor an expansive reading of gun rights, the lawsuits seek to lock in broader gun-ownership rights.

With some of the strictest gun-control laws in the country, California has become a focus of these legal battles. And while lawsuits have been filed in each of the state’s four federal court districts, San Diego has become a major front in the legal battle.

Targeting state laws

No fewer than six lawsuits taking on everything from assault-style weapons to the number of guns that can be purchased in a single 30-day period have been filed in San Diego federal court. The plaintiffs include individuals, many of them members of the San Diego County Gun Owners group, as well as leading advocacy groups such as the Second Amendment Foundation and the Firearms Policy Coalition.

In addition to the three cases Benitez has already ruled on, three other suits take on large chunks of state gun laws:

  • In November a group of gun owners and advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against a new law that expanded California’s handgun regulation. A portion of that law required the state to remove three handguns from its roster of approved handguns for sale, for every new handgun added. Gun groups claimed this would inevitably whittle down the number of lawful handguns state residents could purchase.The suit also sought to re-litigate claims that state requirements that new handguns have certain feature were unconstitutional. Those claims had been rejected by a federal judge in Los Angeles and the appeals court in 2018.
  • A suit filed in 2019 sought to strike down restrictions on residents between the ages of 18 and 20 years old from buying firearms, contending it violated the constitutional rights of young adults. Judge James Lorenz in November rejected those claims. The case is now on appeal.
  • A lawsuit challenges the state law limits handgun and assault-style rifle purchases to one every 30 days.

Now, they’re not wrong. We are litigating to repeal Second Amendment-violating state laws. This is because lawmakers in California and a host of other states have had ample opportunity to step up and rectify the situation. They’ve failed to do so.

See, gun rights are human rights. When a state violates someone’s rights, taking them to court is the logical step.

However, for some time, many in the gun rights community wanted to focus on legislation. The problem is that once a gun control law is in place, it’s very difficult to repeal it. Especially in a state like California that doesn’t seem to get that no matter how much gun control they pass, it has zero impact on the crime rate in the state.

Now, though, many are focusing on the courts. Fighting those battles may be a better use of money, time, and effort. Especially since legal battles can create change beyond a single state.

Plus, let’s face it. When some of these make it before the Supreme Court, assuming the Court takes the case, it’ll make for interesting fireworks in California.