Busy Week For Alan Gura

This has been a busy week for Alan Gura. He has had not one but two oral arguments on back to back days before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Moreover, both cases involve gun rights.

The first case, Lane v. Holder, is a challenge to the Gun Control Act of 1968’s ban on the sales of handguns to non-residents of a state. The case was filed in 2011 and challenged the law on behalf of Michelle Lane, a resident of the District of Columbia, who had purchased two handguns in Virginia and could not pick them up there. At the time of the original filing, there was no active FFL in DC. The Second Amendment Foundation, Amanda Welling, and Matthew Welling are also plaintiffs in this case.

US District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of the Eastern District of Virginia denied the motion for a preliminary injuction in July 2011. He also dismissed the case at that time. A few days later, Lane and the Second Amendment Foundation filed notice of appeal to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The oral argument in this case were on Tuesday and an audio file is available here. The case was heard by Judges Diana Gribbon Motz, Allyson K. Duncan, and Henry F. Floyd. They were appointed to the 4th Circuit by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama respectively.

The arguments presented by both Alan Gura and the attorneys for Department of Justice and the VA State Police centered primarily around the issue of standing. Does the plaintiff have standing to ask for an injunction given the Federal and state laws in question restrict the FFL? Gura argues that they do and compares this case to other cases involving interstate wine shipments and contraceptives. The Supreme Court find in those cases that the restriction of distribution channels amounted to an Article III injury or, in layman’s terms, interference with interstate commerce. The counter-arguments from the attorneys for Holder and the VA State Police argue that there is no standing for the plaintiffs. The attorney for Virginia argued that their law would be valid if the Federal law was found unconstitutional or amended. They would transfer handguns to out of state residents because the person would meet the new requirements. The Department of Justice attorney argues that the out of state residents are not harmed as they can purchase a firearm anywhere and have it shipped to an in-state FFL. She also argued that Federal law merely backs up local laws and regulations regarding handgun sales.

Much of the questioning by the judges centered around having only one dealer in DC and the fees charged by Charles Sykes. One judge, I believe Judge Duncan, brought up the Ezell case and wondered how this differed from that. This question was aimed at the DOJ attorney.

The second case, Woollard v. Gallagher, has attracted more attention because the District Court ruled against the State of Maryland’s may-issue carry laws. The State of Maryland promptly appealed and the oral arguments were present yesterday. The audio of the oral arguments should be made available on Friday. In the meantime, thanks to Sebastian, there is a link to the Baltimore Sun’s coverage of the oral arguments.

UPDATE: The Washington Post has more on the oral arguments. The 3 judge panel consisted of Judges Andre Davis (Clinton), Robert King (Clinton), and Albert Diaz (Bush 44). 

UPDATE II: The audio file for Woollard v. Gallagher has been posted. You can download or listen to it here.

Government As Gun Dealer? (Updated)

Believe it or not but this is NOT a story about Operation Fast and Furious, Operation Castaway, or any of the other Project Gunwalker variants.

It is, however, about a proposal before the District of Columbia City Council that would make the D.C. government a Federal Firearms Licensee. Currently there are no operating FFLs in the District of Columbia since Charles Sykes lost his lease. As the Washington Post reports:

While Sykes’s business in on hiatus, D.C. residents have been prevented de facto from buying guns, which has opened the city to lawsuits. In late May, Virginia lawyer Alan Gura sued the city in Alexandria’s federal court on behalf of three District residents who have purchased guns legally but are unable to transfer them into the city.

The lawsuit in question is Lane et al v. Holder et al and is being tried in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Alan Gura. The suit goes to the heart of the Gun Control Act of 1968 which forbade interstate transfers of handguns except for FFL to FFL transfers. More on that suit can be found here.

Council Member At-Large Phil Mendelson (D) has proposed three emergency bills that would make the District a FFL. From his notice for the July 12th Council meeting that was sent to all members of the City Council:

  • Firearms Amendment Emergency Declaration Resolution Act of 2011
  • Firearms Amendment Emergency Amendment Act of 2011
  • Firearms Amendment Temporary Amendment Act of 2011

The above measures would permit the District to operate as a Federal Firearms licensee (FFL) for the purpose of individuals’ interstate purchase and transfer of handguns when there is no active FFL operating in the District. The sole FFL that had been operating in the District is not currently operating, meaning that a District resident who wishes to purchase a handgun cannot bring it into the District since an FFL is required to physically receive the firearm and then provide it to the licensed owner. This emergency act will permit the District to operate as the FFL in the limited circumstance where there is not otherwise an FFL in operation in the District, thereby allowing District residents who wish to purchase firearms to do so legally.

Mr. Mendelson has said that gun control opponents are “waiting to pounce” on the District over the lack of a FFL. Actually, as I noted above, they have already pounced and have a very solid case. As to Mr. Sykes and his efforts to find a new location, he has said he has proposed a number of locations to the District but they have all been rejected.

This might be the time for a pro-gun Congressman to introduce a bill forbidding the District from becoming a FFL. I would hate to imagine the fees they would charge for a transfer plus the hoops they would make you jump just to pick up your paid-for firearm.

UPDATE: It looks like the DC City Council will be rejecting this bill.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and council members expressed a variety of concerns about Mendelson’s proposal.

In a letter delivered to council members Tuesday morning, Gray said the proposal would impose an “unnecessary burden on the government, would potentially subject the District government to liability and also undermines the District’s strong public stance in support of gun control.”

D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) and Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said they worried the District would be liable for gun deaths if the legislation was approved.

The proponent of this bill, Councilman Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), seems to be the only one who realizes what a tight spot the District of Columbia finds itself with no operating gun shop to act as a transfer agent. You have attorney Alan Gura and his suit, Lane v. Holder, on one side and a pro-gun Congress on the other. Frankly, I’m glad they punted on this proposal as it makes it more likely that Lane v. Holder will succeed in its thrust at the heart of the Gun Control Act of 1968.