Kavanaugh Could Swing High Court on Gun Issues

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination highlights a major difference between an earlier generation of legal conservatives, who emphasize judicial restraint, and today’s activist conservatives who say they are enforcing the original meaning of the Constitution and will use it to block liberal legislation from the states.

With the addition of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court could have a conservative majority to strike down bans on semi-automatic weapons in California and other liberal states and to decree that law-abiding Americans have a right to carry a gun in public, the Los Angeles Times reports. The issue highlights a central difference between an earlier generation of legal conservatives, who emphasize judicial restraint, and today’s activist conservatives who say they are enforcing the original meaning of the Constitution and will use it to block liberal legislation from the states. Kavanaugh’s record puts him in the activist group. In one dissent, he argued the Constitution prohibits a state from banning so-called assault weapons. See also: Will a Shifting Supreme Court Change the Consensus on Common-Sense Gun Laws? 

A decade ago, the court, in a 5-4 opinion written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, ruled that the Second Amendment protected the right of individuals to have a gun for self-defense. The decision struck down a District of Columbia law that prohibited residents from keeping a handgun at home. Two years later, the court  struck down a similarly strict ban from Chicago. Since then, the justices have refused to hear gun-rights cases. The court’s reticence indicated that Justice Anthony Kennedy and perhaps Chief Justice John Roberts were not ready to go further and to strike down more regulations on firearms. The court’s silence has not been for lack of opportunities. Gun-rights advocates have tried several times to overturn state restrictions on the sale of rapid-fire rifles and on carrying concealed guns. They argue that those types of gun control measures violate the Second Amendment. They have repeatedly lost in the lower courts, and so far, the high court has refused to hear their appeals — despite strong dissents from Justices Clarence Thomas, Scalia and by Justice Neil Gorsuch after he replaced Scalia.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Settlement Allows Public Access to 3-D Gun Making

With a green light from the State Department, Cody Wilson of Austin, Tx., is inviting anyone who wants access to his code to create firearms using a 3-D printer to come and take it. The settlement with Wilson’s nonprofit, Defense Distributed, as well as the Second Amendment Foundation, was announced last week.

With a green light from the State Department, Cody Wilson of Austin, Tx., is inviting anyone who wants access to his code to create firearms using a 3-D printer to come and take it, the Dallas Morning News reports. The settlement with Wilson’s nonprofit, Defense Distributed, as well as the Second Amendment Foundation, was announced last week. Plaintiffs claimed it as a victory in part because it’s a way to circumvent laws regulating how guns can be purchased. It started in 2013, when Wilson was ordered by the government to remove files he’d posted online that could be downloaded and used to make guns with a 3-D printer. At the time, officials cited regulations for exporting firearms. In the settlement, the government gave Wilson’s nonprofit the OK to distribute such files. Wilson says he wants to “make a resource for American gun culture.”

In 2013, Wilson designed and built a 3-D printed gun, tested it out and uploaded its design files to the internet so anyone else could do the same. After Wilson got the takedown order from the government, he joined forces with the Second Amendment Foundation to sue the State Department. 3-D printing essentially puts manufacturing into the hands of any user with access to a plan and the right printer, which uses layers of plastic, metal or other materials to create a complex device. The settlement came at a time where the government is working to transfer oversight for the export of firearms from the State Department to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The government initially said Wilson needed government authorization to post files that could instruct a 3-D printer to make a gun.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Settlement Allows Public Access to 3-D Gun Making

With a green light from the State Department, Cody Wilson of Austin, Tx., is inviting anyone who wants access to his code to create firearms using a 3-D printer to come and take it. The settlement with Wilson’s nonprofit, Defense Distributed, as well as the Second Amendment Foundation, was announced last week.

With a green light from the State Department, Cody Wilson of Austin, Tx., is inviting anyone who wants access to his code to create firearms using a 3-D printer to come and take it, the Dallas Morning News reports. The settlement with Wilson’s nonprofit, Defense Distributed, as well as the Second Amendment Foundation, was announced last week. Plaintiffs claimed it as a victory in part because it’s a way to circumvent laws regulating how guns can be purchased. It started in 2013, when Wilson was ordered by the government to remove files he’d posted online that could be downloaded and used to make guns with a 3-D printer. At the time, officials cited regulations for exporting firearms. In the settlement, the government gave Wilson’s nonprofit the OK to distribute such files. Wilson says he wants to “make a resource for American gun culture.”

In 2013, Wilson designed and built a 3-D printed gun, tested it out and uploaded its design files to the internet so anyone else could do the same. After Wilson got the takedown order from the government, he joined forces with the Second Amendment Foundation to sue the State Department. 3-D printing essentially puts manufacturing into the hands of any user with access to a plan and the right printer, which uses layers of plastic, metal or other materials to create a complex device. The settlement came at a time where the government is working to transfer oversight for the export of firearms from the State Department to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The government initially said Wilson needed government authorization to post files that could instruct a 3-D printer to make a gun.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Should ‘Good Guys With Guns’ Have Killed in OK?

Two armed citizens were hailed as heroes for shooting a gunman at an Oklahoma restaurant. The National Rifle Association praised them, but police noted that “we don’t want people to be vigilantes.”

Juan Carlos Nazario and Bryan Whittle were both near an Oklahoma waterfront restaurant in May when they heard gunshots and reacted by approaching the scene with their own guns. In a matter of seconds, the two armed citizens became self-appointed protectors, moving to take up positions around the shooter, drawing their weapons and shouting for him to drop his. There was an exchange of gunfire. The gunman was hit several times and fell. Police arrived, and unsure who was who, officers handcuffed all of the men and put them on the ground as the shooter bled out into the grass and died, the Washington Post reports.

The men were soon hailed as heroes. They were also called champions of Second Amendment rights, gun-carrying examples of why Oklahoma’s Republican governor should not have vetoed a bill two weeks earlier that would have eliminated the need for a permit and training to carry a gun in public. Second Amendment activists have urged that more people carry guns so that they are prepared to respond to an armed threat. After the Oklahoma shooting, the National Rifle Association tweeted that it was “just another example of how the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Police noted that armed citizens can complicate volatile situations. The first of 57 uniformed police officers arrived just a minute after the initial 911 calls and found a complex scene with multiple armed people and no clear sense of what had happened or who was responsible. “We don’t want people to be vigilantes,” said Bo Mathews, a spokesman for the Oklahoma City Police Department. “That’s why we have police officers.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

FBI Plans Expansion To Gun Background Check System

The National Data Exchange, or N-DEx, houses more than 400 million records, including incident and arrest reports and probation and parole documents. The FBI began exploring the possibility of using N-DEx in 2015, after an internal review found that Charleston, S.C., gunman Dylann Roof would have been blocked from legally acquiring his murder weapon had examiners been able to tap it.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is planning a major addition to the gun background check system, years after examiners’ failure to locate critical information allowed a white supremacist to buy the gun he used to murder nine people in a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., reports The Trace. Within about two years, background check examiners will have the option to query a vast, previously untapped database of law enforcement records when vetting potential gun buyers. The National Data Exchange, or N-DEx, which is maintained by the FBI, houses more than 400 million records, including incident and arrest reports and probation and parole documents. The FBI began exploring the possibility of using N-DEx in 2015, after an internal review found that Charleston gunman Dylann Roof would have been blocked from legally acquiring his murder weapon had examiners been able to tap it.

Stephen Morris, who ran the FBI’s background check division at the time Roof bought his gun, said he has long pushed to give examiners access to N-DEx. “If there is a system that can be searched, we should be searching it,” he said. In June, a federal judge in South Carolina who dismissed wrongful death lawsuits against the bureau by the victims’ families assailed the FBI for not querying the database when evaluating the fitness of gun buyers. He called the omission “simple nonsense.” As the FBI considered the switch, the bureau’s Criminal Justice Information Services Advisory Policy Board conducted a pilot study encompassing more than a million gun background checks. It found that with N-DEx added to the tools for vetting purchasers, two dozen gun buyers who would have been waived through were instead kept from acquiring guns they aren’t allowed to have. Seven more were flagged for further research.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Student-Led Pro-Gun Rallies Smaller Than Hoped

As a Chicago rally drew only 35 people supporting gun rights, hundreds of protesters calling attention to gun violence shut down the city’s Dan Ryan
Expressway.

Student-led rallies on Saturday aimed to show support for gun rights, but their effort drew smaller-than-expected crowds in a bid to counter the well-funded and organized youth gun-control lobby that emerged after the Florida high school massacre, reports the Washington Post. In Chicago, people rallied in a corner of Millennium Park. In Los Angeles, protesters yelled “gun rights are human rights.” In Washington, a U.S. flag billowed against a backdrop of the Capitol as attendees said guns are being used as scapegoats and that society’s problems run deeper than firearms. Students who say their views have been silenced in recent months as vocal gun-control advocates have been monopolizing attention used the marches as a way to raise awareness of their fears that hasty solutions could lead to an erosion of the Second Amendment.

Organizers of Saturday’s marches said many conservative students believe that  their views are not being taken into consideration in the debate about school shootings, and the marches on Saturday were planned as a way to show that not all students support gun control. Planning for Saturday’s rallies started in April, weeks after gun-control rallies in many cities. In Chicago, organizers planned for about 125 people, but the rally drew approximately 35. Earlier in the morning, hundreds of protesters shut down 10 blocks of the Chicago’s Dan Ryan Expressway. Their march along the highway was in protest of gun violence and gun-related deaths in Chicago, and the disruption drew widespread attention — and some scorn, from groups including the National Rifle Association.

from https://thecrimereport.org

California Gangs Increasingly Make Their Own Guns

Federal agents and Los Angeles police display “ghost guns” seized from gang members: homemade AR-15-style semiautomatic rifles and pistols without the traditional serial numbers, built from parts purchased over the internet.

Los Angeles police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives  displayed on Thursday a small arsenal of weapons that authorities seized from gang members during a six-month undercover operation. It’s not unusual for authorities to grab high-power weapons during these types of sweeps. These AR-15-style semiautomatic rifles and pistols were different — homemade, untraceable “ghost guns” without the traditional serial numbers, built from parts purchased over the internet, the Los Angeles Times reports. Authorities are seeing more gangs turn to homemade guns as it becomes more difficult to acquire real ones.

“Criminals are making their own weapons because they cannot buy them legally … or they are paying other people to make those guns for them to get around the gun laws,” said  ATF agent Bill McMullan. “This is a trend among Southern California gangs.” Investigators seized 45 firearms and arrested 10 alleged gang members involved in the manufacture and sale of so-called ghost guns to criminals. These weapons are effectively unknown to law enforcement, making them difficult to trace. Ghost guns begin as partially manufactured weapons. A buyer can legally purchase a partial built lower receiver, which is not part of a firearm required to be stamped with a serial number when sold. An unfinished lower receiver can legally be purchased without a serial number as long as it is missing key components that would make it a firearm. The lower receiver then can be completed easily by drilling a few holes into the unfinished metal shell. It is then ready for a barrel, trigger mechanism, stock and upper receiver to be attached. Those forbidden from purchasing a gun, such as felons and those with documented mental health issues, can still buy the partial lower receiver and then buy the other parts of the weapons off the internet.

from https://thecrimereport.org

MA 12th State With ‘Red Flag’ Law on Guns

A new Massachusetts law allows police, family members and dating partners to request that firearms be temporarily taken from people who appear to be at risk of harming themselves or others. Seven states have enacted such laws since the February mass shooting in Parkland, Fl.

A new Massachusetts law allows police, family members and dating partners to request that firearms be temporarily taken from people who appear to be at risk of harming themselves or others, the Huffington Post reports. Gov. Charlie Baker’s  signature makes Massachusetts the 12th state with a so-called red flag law, and the seventh to enact this sort of legislation since the February mass shooting in Parkland, Fl. Once a petition is filed against a gun owner, a judge must hold a hearing within 10 days to determine if that person poses a valid risk. If so, the judge will order the person to surrender all firearms and stay away from guns for 12 months.

The Massachusetts law allows emergency extreme-risk protection orders that can be approved without notice to the gun owner. Under this process,  firearms are immediately removed for up to 10 days ahead of a hearing, where a judge decides whether to extend the order for a full year. Red flag laws have emerged as the most popular legislative response to the Parkland massacre, which left 17 students and staffers dead. The accused gunman expressed violent intentions in the years leading up to the shooting, but police had no legal way to disarm him without an arrest and conviction. Advocates say red flag laws give the people closest to gun owners a tool to remove firearms from a situation before it turns deadly. Studies suggest that extreme-risk proection orders may have a larger effect on suicides, which account for two-thirds of gun deaths nationwide. Before Parkland, only California, Washington, Oregon, Indiana and Connecticut had red flag laws. Florida, Vermont, Maryland, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Delaware passed laws since the massacre. A bill in Illinois awaits the governor’s signature.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Many Supposed Victims of Gun Thefts are Lying

Where guns are recovered in violent crimes, the shooter carries a gun that belongs to someone else 8 out of 10 times. Just how often supposed theft victims knowingly pass guns to crooks is unknown. The feared trend is part of a booming rise in reported gun thefts in Kansas City.

Three times since 2016, a Kansas City man walked into his local police station and reported he had been robbed of a 9 mm handgun or two. Was he telling the truth? Many self-described victims of gun thefts are lying, gun violence experts say, and cops and courts seem nearly powerless against the problem, the Kansas City Star reports. “We live in a world of lies,” said Sgt. Paul Hamilton of the Kansas City Police Department’s illegal firearms squad. In such cases, someone who legally acquired a gun passes it on to an illegal gun owner. As an alibi, the legal gun owner reports the gun as stolen just in case it is recovered in a violent crime and traced back to their hands.

Criminals work with illegally gotten guns. Studies show that where guns are recovered in violent crimes, the shooter carries a gun that belongs to someone else 8 out of 10 times. Just how often supposed theft victims knowingly pass guns to crooks is unknown. The feared trend is part of a booming rise in reported gun thefts in Kansas City. Police tallied 886 reported firearms thefts in 2017, up 50 percent in just two years. The rise in gun thefts is driven primarily by criminals breaking into cars and homes, taking advantage of poorly protected firearms. Sorting out which victims are real and which are fake is not easy. The Star obtained firearms theft data from the Kansas City Police Department for 2008 through 2017 and sorted it to identify individuals who made multiple gun theft reports. Next was a search of some of the most-victimized, following trails that led in one of two disconcerting directions. One path chased after ghosts — people without current addresses, often listed at homes now vacant. The second path led to real victims whom criminals targeted for their vulnerability.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Will a Shifting Supreme Court Change the Consensus on ‘Common-Sense’ Gun Laws?

A rightward-leaning Supreme Court could shift the legal consensus established a decade ago by the District of Columbia v. Heller ruling and “imperil sensible gun laws that Americans need and broadly support,” warns the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

A rightward-leaning Supreme Court could shift the legal consensus established a decade ago by the District of Columbia v. Heller ruling  and “imperil sensible gun laws that Americans need and broadly support,” a leading advocacy group warns.

In a review of litigation since the 2008 High Court ruling, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence said Heller effectively upheld the Second Amendment guarantees that “law-abiding, responsible Americans” have the right to possess guns in their homes for self-defense—even if they do not belong to armies or militias. But at the same time, the ruling made clear that the right was not unlimited.

The two elements of the ruling have given encouragement to both sides of the gun debate, said the Brady Center.

While gun control advocates have interpreted the ruling as establishing that the right to bear arms is not a constitutional bar to “common sense gun laws,” pro-gun groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) considers the ruling as an affirmation of unrestricted gun ownership rights.

Nevertheless, over 90 percent of the 1,000-plus legal challenges to gun laws and gun crime prosecutions in the ensuing decade in state and federal courts were rejected, the report said.

“The courts have repeatedly held that Heller does not provide a basis to overturn bansd on the public carry of firearms, assault weapons, and large capacity magazines,” the study said.

“They have also overwhelmingly held that Heller allows for reasonable restrictions on dangerous people possessing and owning firearms, and has upheld safety regulations regarding firearms training, storage, and design.

“These rulings make clear that the Second Amendment is no impediment to enacting the strong, sensible gun laws that Americans want and need to reduce the epidemic of gun violence that injures or kills more than 100,000 people in the United States every year.”

Pointing out that the only thing preventing enactment of common-sense gun laws is “political will,” the study warned that the status quo established by the Heller ruling was now endangered by shifts in the Court.

“There is also a real concern that a new composition of the Supreme Court, molded from appointees of President Trump, could extend the reach of Heller and the Second Amendment far beyond what its original authors intended and imperil,” the study said.

“A future Second Amendment case before a more conservative Supreme Court could yet again substantially alter the Second Amendment landscape.”

Contributing authors to the study, include Joshua Scharff from the Brady Center; Anna M. Kelly and Madeleine Bech from Hogan Lovells; and Suzan Charlton and Joseph DuChane from Covington & Burling, LLP.  Zayden Tethong, Caitlin Nelson, and Jenna Casolo from the Brady Center provided research assistance.

The full report, entitled “10 years later: The Second Amendment and Public Safety After Heller,” can be downloaded here.

Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org