Two Gun Rights Alienage Wins In North Carolina

The Second Amendment Foundation brought suit on behalf of Felicity Veasey, an Australian citizen, for being denied the right to apply for a North Carolina Concealed Handgun Permit. She is a permanent legal resident married to a US citizen living in Granville County. The suit sought to enjoin the enforcement of the state requirement that one must be a US citizen to obtain a CHP. The case was started in June 2014.

The ACLU and the Second Amendment Foundation have won a number of lawsuits challenging the denial of gun rights based on alienage. Between the two, they have won cases in Kentucky, South Dakota, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Massachusetts on behalf of permanent legal residents. Discrimination based upon alienage is considered constitutionally suspect and an regulation or law must be examined under strict scrutiny.

Another case was filed in March 2015 on behalf of Kristen Messmer of Wake County, a German citizen who is a permanent legal resident and who also sought a North Carolina Concealed Handgun Permit. Her attorney was Camden Webb who also served as co-counsel in the Veasey case.

The cases, though not officially joined, were both heard by US District Court Judge Terrence Boyle of the Eastern District of NC. He granted a preliminary injunction in both cases on Thursday and the opinions were released on Friday afternoon. With the exception of the background of the plaintiffs, the wording in the opinions is virtually word for word the same.

After noting that permanent residents have many of the same constitutional rights as US citizens including their Second Amendment rights, Judge Boyle wrote:

No defendant has proffered a strong argument in support of limiting the concealed carry
statute to citizens. No defendant objected to plaintiffs’ characterization in court that resident
aliens are allowed to possess firearms on their premises and are even allowed to carry firearms
openly in North Carolina. In fact, the Sheriff stated in court that he agreed with plaintiffs that the
law at issue in this case was unconstitutional. In light of other court rulings, the law in North
Carolina, and defendants’ postures in this case, plaintiffs have demonstrated that they are likely
to succeed on the merits.

The Court further finds that in the absence of preliminary injunctive relief, plaintiffs will
suffer irreparable harm. The deprivation of a constitutional right, even if only briefly, constitutes
irreparable harm

Professor Eugene Volokh has also covered the Messmer case at the Volokh Conspiracy.

The North Carolina General Assembly, if it were smart, would save the state some money and make the necessary corrections to state law. Judge Boyle issued a preliminary injunction and further hearings and filings would be needed for the permanent injunction.

The Second Amendment Foundation Returns To North Carolina

The first case brought after the win in McDonald v. Chicago extended the Second Amendment to the states was in North Carolina. Bateman v. Perdue challenged the state’s law that restricted possession of firearms and ammunition outside the home during a state of emergency. Bateman was brought by the Second Amendment Foundation (among others) and was ultimately a win. Citizens of North Carolina are now allowed to protect themselves during states of emergency.

The Second Amendment Foundation has now returned to North Carolina to challenge the state’s restriction of  Concealed Handgun Permits to US citizens. Felicity Todd Veasey is an Australian citizen and legal permanent resident living in Butner who is married to a US citizen. Mrs. Veasey has lived in North Carolina for the last 10 years and wishes to obtain a Concealed Handgun Permit. Named as the defendant in the case is Sheriff Brindell Wilkins, Jr. in his official capacity as sheriff of Granville County. North Carolina Concealed Handgun Permits are issued by the sheriffs of the respective counties.

This case follows on the heels of winning cases challenging state restrictions of firearm permits and concealed carry permits to only citizens. Alienage is a suspect class under Constitutional precedent and the state must show a compelling governmental interest in restrictions concerning citizenship. The Second Amendment Foundation has won similar cases in Nebraska, New Mexico, Massachusetts, and elsewhere while the ACLU has brought similar winning cases in South Dakota and Kentucky.

Veasey v. Wilkins seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction against this provision as well as a declaratory judgment stating that it is unconstitutional. The case is being brought on the grounds that the provision violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and that it violates Mrs. Veasey’s rights to keep and bear arms under the 2nd and 14th Amendments. The lead attorney in the case is David Sigale of Illinois who has served as lead attorney in a number of similar cases.

You can read the Second Amendment Foundation’s release on the case here. As Alan Gottlieb of SAF notes in the release, “we seem (to)keep finding such laws on the books and we have to challenge them.”

The full complaint is located here.

UPDATE: As Sean’s comments indicate, the North Carolina General Assembly was urged to change the citizenship requirement but blew it off. Now it is going to cost the state time, effort, and money to correct their error. If they were smart, they’d fold immediately, pay SAF a reasonable amount for legal fees, and change the law.