The NRA has amended the complaints in their cases in US District Court for the Northern District of Texas challenging laws that impact 18 to 20 year olds who wish to purchase a handgun or carry a handgun concealed. Links to and description of the original D’Cruz case can be found here.
The changes in the suits include adding additional plaintiffs, additional information on James D’Cruz’s marksmanship qualifications, some wording changes, and a bit more emphasis on the Second Amendment. Since there are two suits, I will detail the changes case by case.
The first change is that an additional individual plaintiff has been added as well as the NRA itself as an organizational plaintiff. The new individual plaintiff is Andrew Payne, an 18 year old resident of Lubbock, Texas. Mr. Payne is the owner of several long guns but would like to be able to purchase a handgun and handgun ammunition from a federally-licensed dealer.
The NRA itself has become an organizational plaintiff in the case representing members residing in Lubbock and other areas of west Texas. It is also representing federally-licensed dealers (FFL’s) who are members of the NRA who wish to be able to sell firearms to 18-20 year old adults.
I think – and this is only a supposition on my part – that the additional plaintiffs were added for two reasons. The first reason is that with the additional plaintiffs it shows that more people than just Mr. D’Cruz are impacted by Title 18, Sections 922(b)(1) and 922(c) which ban the sale of handguns to the 18-20 year old adult citizens. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the addition of the NRA as a plaintiff to the suit removes the possibility that the issue becomes moot when Mr. D’Cruz and Mr. Payne turn 21. Federal cases can take years to move through District Court and then the appellate courts.
In discussing the law at issue, the amended complaint recognizes that:
The Second Amendment secures the right to purchase handguns and handgun ammunition for self-defense and other lawful purposes. And the Second Amendment’s protections extend in full to law-abiding adults aged eighteen or older.
The other major addition to the complaint is information on Mr. D’Cruz taking and passing the course required to obtain a Texas Concealed Handgun License which he passed with flying colors. I believe the intent is to show that Mr. D’Cruz is extremely competent with the handling of a handgun.
With the exception of naming the plaintiffs instead of just referring to them as “plaintiffs”, both Counts and the Prayer for Relief remain the same as the original complaint.
The National Rifle Association was added to this case in the amended complaint as an organizational plaintiff. It notes it has members in Lubbock and west Texas who are in the 18-20 year old range who would wish to carry a handgun for self-defense and would want to obtain a Texas CHL. Again, I think the NRA was added as a plaintiff to protect the suit from being declared moot if Mr. D’Cruz either ages out or, peculiar to this case, joins the military.
Additions to this complaint include a paragraph outlining the 14 requirements under Texas Gov’t Code § 411.172(a) that must be met in order to qualify for a Texas Concealed Handgun License. Another addition is a paragraph describing the coursework and shooting proficiency tests required to demonstrate evidence of handgun proficiency required under Texas Go’vt Code § 411.174(a)(7).
Mr. D’Cruz, to bolster his case, took the required Texas CHL course:
On September 26, 2010, Mr. D’Cruz completed a handgun safety and proficiency course taught by a CHL instructor licensed by the Texas Department of Public Safety. The course consisted of approximately eight hours of classroom instruction and two hours of range instruction. The course culminated with administration of the written and range tests that are given to applicants for a CHL. To qualify for a CHL, applicants must achieve a score of 70% or better; an applicant may attempt each test three times to achieve the required score. On his first attempt, Mr. D’Cruz achieved a score of 92% on the written examination and a score of 93.6% on the range examination. Indeed, in terms of knowledge and skill with respect to the safe and proper handling of handguns, Mr. D’Cruz’s instructor has stated that he would place Mr. D’Cruz in the top 5-8% of students he has instructed over fifteen years.
Thus, with the only exceptions being his age and lack of military service, Mr. D’Cruz would qualify under Texas law for a concealed handgun license. When he went to apply again online for his Texas CHL, he got the following:
Upon receiving Mr. D’Cruz’s “customer authentication” information requested on the first page of the application, the website returned the following response: “Persons between the ages of 18 and 21 are only eligible to apply for license under the Active Military or Veteran conditions.”
The remainder of the complaint including both Counts 1 and 2 and the Prayer for Relief remain the same as the original complaint. His grounds remain an infringement of his Second and Fourteenth Amendment rights to keep and bear arms as well as an infringement of his Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection based upon his age.
Bearing in mind that I am not a lawyer, I think the changes strengthen both cases. Protection against the case becoming moot is built in with the addition of the NRA as an organizational plaintiff. Moreover, with Mr. D’Cruz now having taken the required handgun safety and proficiency class and passed with flying colors, it is hard to argue that it is a safety or proficiency issue. Given that the judge in this case, Judge Sam Cummings bolstered the Second Amendment as an individual right with his opinion in the Emerson case, it will be very interesting to see how these cases turn out. At least, we know we can’t blame a loss on an anti-gun judge.