Federal judge upholds ban on unserialized or defaced firearms

Julie Jacobson

In the wake of the Bruen decision, a lot of long-held gun control laws fell before judges throughout the nation. Perhaps the most controversial was when a federal judge ruled that a ban on obliterated serial numbers was unconstitutional.


Needless to say, that ruffled some feathers.

However, a different federal judge just ruled differently.

Although a major U.S. Supreme Court decision last year made it easier to strike down gun safety regulations as unconstitutional, a federal judge agreed on Monday that a law banning the possession of guns that lack serial numbers does not run afoul of the Second Amendment.

Within months of his indictment for possessing a firearm with an “obliterated” serial number in Denver, Jonathan Avila moved for dismissal of the criminal charge, arguing the law violated his constitutional right to bear arms.

But in a May 8 order, U.S. District Court Senior Judge William J. Martínez disagreed, noting the Supreme Court has interpreted the Second Amendment as protecting the right to own weapons for the lawful purpose of self-defense.

“Reason and the experience of law enforcement counsel that obliterating a firearm’s serial number serves another purpose: making the identity of a person who possesses a particular firearm more difficult to determine,” Martínez wrote. “This feature makes firearms with obliterated serial numbers useful for criminal activity.”

Consequently, he determined guns lacking serial numbers are not within the Second Amendment’s protection.


Now, we all know that the primary reason someone destroys the serial numbers on guns is so it’s difficult to determine if the gun is stolen or not. As such, this rule basically makes it so someone found with such a weapon is getting a charge one way or another, it’s just a matter of which one.

Yet on the other hand, if I lawfully buy a product and opt to deface that product in some manner, isn’t that my right as the owner?

Take the notorious tags on pillows and mattresses–the whole “do not remove under penalty of law” thing–that has been made fun of for years. The truth is that you could always remove it after you bought it without breaking the law. It was yours.

So shouldn’t you be able to remove the serial numbers from your guns if you so desire?

According to just Martinez, you can’t.

However, while I’m not a lawyer, I can’t help but have questions. As the above-linked piece noted:

The government, when defending the constitutionality of a firearm law, “must demonstrate that the regulation is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation,” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas for the majority.

He added that if a law addresses a “general societal problem that has persisted since the 18th century,” the lack of a regulation from the 1700s comparable to a modern restriction is “relevant evidence” that current policies are unconstitutional.


Stolen guns were a problem in the 1700s. Maybe not a huge problem all things considered–people could build or buy guns without issue, so criminals had less need of stolen firearms–but it would have still been a concern.

As such, the lack of even a serial number requirement on firearms, much less a ban on obliterated serial numbers, doesn’t seem to have been something our Founding Fathers strongly considered.

It sounds like Judge Martinez opted to just ignore the Bruen decision.

I’m sure the fact that Martinez was an Obama appointee is completely irrelevant to his decision to ignore a Supreme Court ruling.

What this does, though, is set the stage for this case to be appealed to a higher court. As we now have lower courts in conflict, this is ripe for a SCOTUS ruling. We’ll just have to wait and see if it gets there.



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