Morris V. US Army Corps Of Engineers

The Mountain States Legal Foundation filed suit yesterday in the US District Court for the District of Idaho challenging the US Army Corps of Engineers’ prohibition on firearms on Corps-administered lands. The plaintiffs in the case, Elizabeth Morris and Alan Baker, are residents of Idaho who wish to have functional firearms for self-defense while they are camping, boating, or hiking in Corps-administered recreational areas.

A bit of the history behind the suit from MSLF:

Ms. Morris was issued an emergency license by the Nez Perce County Sheriff to carry a concealed handgun in 2012 due to threats and physical attacks against her by a former neighbor. She regularly carries a handgun for self-defense. She uses Corps-administered public lands near the Snake River in Lewiston, Idaho, to boat with friends, regularly walks the Corps-administered paths in the area with her dog and/or her family, and must travel across Corps-administered public lands to reach Hells Gate State Park.

Mr. Baker is a NRA-Certified Home Firearm Safety, Personal Protection In The Home, Rifle, Pistol, and Shotgun Instructor, and also a Utah Concealed Firearms Instructor. He is licensed to carry a concealed handgun in Idaho, Utah, Oregon, and Arizona and regularly carries a handgun for self-defense. A life-long outdoorsman, he regularly recreates on Corps-managed lands in Idaho, including Dworshak Dam and Reservoir on the North Fork Clearwater River.

Because Corps of Engineer regulations ban functional firearms, even while camped in tents, Ms. Morris and Mr. Baker are subject to criminal prosecution if they exercise their Second Amendment rights. The Corps of Engineers did not respond to requests from MSLF seeking exemptions from its firearm ban for Ms. Morris and Mr. Baker. Also filed with their complaint is a motion for a preliminary injunction, asking the court to immediately stop enforcement of the firearms ban.

The lawsuit makes the point that when camping a tent should be considered a temporary dwelling that is treated no differently than something made from bricks and mortar. This argument was used in another successful MSLF lawsuit against the State of Nevada and their park system. Mr. Baker was the plaintiff in that case.

The plaintiffs present two claims for relief. The first alleges that by prohibiting law-abiding individuals from possessing a firearm in a temporary dwelling on Corps-administered lands, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the other defendants are violating the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights. The plaintiffs are asking for both declaratory and injunctive relief.

The second claim for relief in Morris et al v. US Army Corps of Engineers et al is that the Corps is again violating the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights by prohibiting the carrying of a functional firearm – whether openly, concealed, or in a vehicle. Again, the plaintiffs are asking for both declaratory and injunctive relief.

While the Heller decision allowed the prohibition of firearms in “sensitive areas”, I think it would be hard to argue that a campground or a lake constituted a sensitive area. They are not sensitive areas like the control house for the dam and powerhouse on Lucky Peak Lake.

The complaint in Morris et al v. US Army Corps of Engineers et al can be found here.


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