Big News On Fight For Carry On Corps Of Engineers’ Lakes And Recreational Areas

Back in 2014, the US District Court for the District of Idaho issued an injunction that prevented the US Army Corps of Engineers from banning functional firearms in campgrounds and on lakes. Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s opinion in Morris v. USACE stated that the prohibition was a substantial burden on the exercise of the Second Amendment. The case was appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by the government.

Fast forward to today and a different administration. The Mountain States Legal Foundation who represents Elizabeth Nesbitt (formerly Morris) and Al Baker in their case just learned that the DOJ lawyers have submitted an emergency motion stating that they plan to revise the policy and codify the win at the District Court level. If this does become the case, this is a great win for the Second Amendment and its practice on federally-regulated lands.

MSLF just released this statement a few hours ago on the case.

DENVER, CO. An Idaho woman who is barred from carrying a functional firearm for self-defense when she visits vast federal recreational facilities today learned of the Trump administration’s intention to codify her victory before an Idaho federal district court, which ruled the federal government agency’s ban on firearms violates the Second Amendment, at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Elizabeth E. Nesbitt of Nez Perce County is licensed to carry a concealed weapon, regularly carries a concealed weapon, and often seeks to recreate on lands managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Because Corps of Engineers regulations ban functional firearms, even while camped in tents, Ms. Nesbitt is subject to criminal prosecution if she attempts to exercise her Second Amendment rights. Alan C. Baker, a firearms instructor and resident of Idaho’s Latah County, is a co-plaintiff in the suit, which was filed in August of 2013 in Idaho federal district court. The Corps of Engineers did not reply to requests from the attorney for Ms. Nesbitt and Mr. Baker, Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), seeking an exemption from its firearm ban, a ban that has not changed since the landmark Heller ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States.

“On the eve of oral arguments before the Ninth Circuit in Seattle, federal lawyers filed an emergency motion stating their clients’ intention to ‘reconsider[] the firearms policy,’ which the panel granted moments ago,” said William Perry Pendley of Mountain States Legal Foundation. “We are pleased the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will at last comply with the Constitution.”

The Corps of Engineers operates public parks and recreational facilities at water resource development projects under the control of the Department of the Army and thus is the nation’s largest provider of water-based outdoor recreation. It administers 422 lake and river projects in 43 states, spanning 12 million acres, encompassing 55,000 miles of shoreline and 4,500 miles of trails, and including 90,000 campsites and 3,400 boat launch ramps. Waters under its control constitute 33 percent of all U.S. freshwater fishing.

Ms. Nesbitt 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, is a Utah Concealed Firearms Instructor, 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.

More news on the case can be found here.

Make Your Voice Heard At NC Wildlife Commission Hearings

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission will start its yearly round of public hearings on proposed rule changes for fisheries, game lands, hunting, and other issues. The commission will start their hearings on Tuesday in Bladen County and conclude them on January 21st in Rocky Mount. Hearings will be held in all nine districts.

Among the proposed regulations are the opening of an elk season and an alligator season. Some of the proposed regulations are to bring them into compliance with state law. There is one proposed regulation that has gun rights implications. The text of the proposed regulation deals with US Army Corps of Engineers managed properties that are enrolled in the NC Game Lands program.

On Butner-Falls of Neuse,
Jordan, Kerr Scott and Vance game lands, no person shall possess loaded firearms, ammunition, bows and arrows,
crossbows, or other weapons except as provided in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 36, Chapter III, Part 327.13.

That section of the Code of Federal Regulations prohibits the possession of loaded firearms unless you are law enforcement, hunting, at a target range, or have written permission from the District Commander. This was the issue in Nesbitt v. USACE which was a win at the District Court level but was appealed by the government to the 9th Circuit.

Written public comments can be submitted until January 25th. The comment form is located here. Personally, I’d wait to make my comment until the wording of the proposed regulations are released.

The schedule and location of the hearings is below:

The schedule for the 2016-17 public hearings is below. Public hearings begin at 7 p.m.
Jan. 5 
Bladen Community College
7418 N.C. Hwy. 41W
Dublin, N.C. 28332
Jan. 6 
Southern Alamance High School
631 Southern High School Road 
Graham, N.C. 27253
Jan. 7 
South Stanly High School
40488 South Stanly School Rd. 
Norwood, N.C. 28128
Jan. 12 
Haywood Community College
185 Freelander Drive
Clyde, N.C.
Jan. 13 
Western Piedmont Community College
Leviton Auditorium, Moore Hall
1001 Burkemont Ave.
Morganton, N.C. 28655
Jan. 14 (Thurs.)
Elkin High School
334 Elk Spur Street
Elkin, N.C. 28621
Jan. 19
Swain Auditorium
200 E. Church St.
Edenton, N.C. 27932
Jan. 20
New Bern
Craven Community College
Orringer Auditorium
800 College Court
 New Bern, N.C.  28562
Jan. 21
Rocky Mount
Nash Community College
Brown Auditorium
454 N. Old Carriage Road
Rocky Mount, N.C. 27804

White House – Target Shooting Is OK But Self-Defense Is Not

HR 3590 – the Sportsmen’s Heritage And Recreational Enhancement Act of 2013passed the House of Representatives yesterday on a vote of 268 in favor with 154 opposed. The bill passed in a somewhat bipartisan manner with 41 Democrats and 227 Republican voting in favor of the bill.

The bill, if acted upon and passed by the Senate, does a number of things including setting aside Pittman-Robertson monies for range construction, removes the authority of the EPA to regulate lead for ammunition and fishing tackle, and allows electronic duck stamps. The bill would also prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from banning firearm possession on Corps recreational and water resource development projects. The US District Court for the District of Idaho issued a preliminary injunction preventing the US Army Corps of Engineers from doing just that in the case of Morris et al v. Army Corps of Engineers.

A summary of Title VI states:

Title VI: Access to Water Resources Development Projects Act – Recreational Lands Self-Defense Act of 2013Prohibits
the Secretary of the Army from promulgating or enforcing any regulation
that prohibits an individual from possessing a firearm at a water
resources development project administered by the Chief of Engineers if:
(1) the individual is not otherwise prohibited by law from possessing
the firearm, and (2) the possession of the firearm is in compliance with
the law of the state in which the project is located.

On Monday, the White House issued a statement on the SHARE Act stating what they supported, what they opposed, and what they didn’t care about one way or another. The White House said it supported the use of Pittman-Robertson monies for range development (Title II), it supported allowing the importation of a handful of legally killed polar bear trophies from Canada which have been stuck in limbo (Title IV), and it supported the electronic sales of duck stamps (Title V).

The White House said that it didn’t oppose Title I which, in its words, “excludes certain sport fishing equipment from the classification of toxic substances.” They ignored mention of that part of the bill that would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 to “exclude from the definition of “chemical substance” for purposes of such
Act: (1) any component of any pistol, revolver, firearm, shell, or
cartridge the sale of which is subject to federal excise tax, including
shot, bullets and other projectiles, propellants, and primers”.  I guess I should be thankful that they didn’t oppose it.

Among the things the White House opposed was Title VI. They said:

The Administration also opposes Title VI, which prohibits the Secretary of the Army from enforcing any regulations that would prohibit the possession of firearms at water resources development projects with limited exceptions.

In other words, they are opposed to the right of visitors to any Corps-administered lands to be able to be armed for the purposes of self-defense. A tent or camper has been found to be a temporary residence many times
by the courts and, as such, is the place which the Supreme Court found
in the Heller case that the need for self-defense is “most acute”.  Thus, while the Obama Administration is somewhat OK with gun owners and hunters doing target shooting at some backwoods, out-of-the-way location, they don’t believe you have the right to self-defense while in a tent or camper in a campground on Corps-administered lands.

Go figure.

Rep. Jason Altmire On Self-Defense Carry On Army Corps Of Engineer Land

Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA) proposed an amendment that restricts funding for the Army Corps of Engineers to enforce a ban on firearms on Corps-managed land. They manage over 11 million acres of land throughout the U.S. The Gosar-Gibbs-Altmire Amendment passed last week.

Rep. Altmire is also the co-sponsor along with Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) of HR 1865 – the Recreational Lands Self-Defense Act of 2011 – which would do away with the ban on firearms on Army Corps of Engineers land. This bill has 73 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. From the text of HR 1865:

The Secretary of the Army shall not promulgate or enforce any regulation that prohibits an individual from possessing a firearm including an assembled or functional firearm at a water resources development project covered under section 327.0 of title 36, Code of Federal Regulations

So long as an individual was not prohibited from possessing a firearm and as long as possession at the lake or water recreation area was permitted under state law, the Corps would no longer be able to ban possession of a functional firearm on property they manage.