More than four years after initially filing a challenge to the long-standing ban on interstate handgun sales to law-abiding citizens from other states, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms has petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States to review the case.
What began in July 2014 as a lawsuit naming then-Attorney General Eric Holder as the defendant, the case now known as Mance v. Whitaker comes out of the Fifth Circuit, where a federal district court ruled that the interstate handgun transfer ban is facially unconstitutional, which was subsequently reversed by a Fifth Circuit panel. The Fifth Circuit then denied a petition for an en banc rehearing, by what CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb recalled was “a fractured 8-7 vote.”
At the time of the initial ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division, wrote, “(T)he Court finds that the federal interstate handgun transfer ban burdens conduct that falls within the scope of the Second Amendment.”
Judge O’Connor noted later in the ruling that, “By failing to provide specific information to demonstrate the reasonable fit between this ban and illegal sales and lack of notice in light of the Brady Act amendments to the 1968 Gun Control Act, the ban is not substantially related to address safety concerns. Thus, even under intermediate scrutiny, the federal interstate handgun transfer ban is unconstitutional on its face.”
This is an important case because it not only challenges what Gottlieb considers is a passé law, it also notes a problem in the lower federal courts where many judges remain stubborn about the Second Amendment despite two Supreme Court rulings during the past ten years. CCRKBA is receiving financial support from the Second Amendment Foundation, its sister organization.
This is a rare case, because CCRKBA normally does not get involved in litigation.
“Our case goes to the heart of what appears to be a reluctance in the lower courts to enforce the Second Amendment even now, more than ten years after the landmark Heller ruling and eight years after the McDonald ruling,” Gottlieb said. “This continuing problem is mentioned in our petition to the high court.”
The case involves a Texas firearms retailer and two would-be customers who reside in Washington, D.C. Retailer Frederic Mance and would-be clients Andrew and Tracy Hanson are represented in the case by attorney Alan Gura, victor in both the 2008 Heller case and SAF’s 2010 case of McDonald v. City of Chicago. Gura successfully argued both landmark cases before the high court.
The Hansons wanted to purchase a handgun from Mance, which they can legally own in the District of Columbia, but because of the current law, they were not able to conduct a transaction.
“The ban on interstate handgun sales was adopted decades ago,” Gottlieb noted, “prior to the advent of the National Instant Check System that is now in place. The Hansons have essentially been denied the ability to legally purchase a handgun from a licensed retailer because of this prohibition. With the advent of the NICS system, it makes no sense to perpetuate a ban on interstate transfers of handguns.”
“After all,” he explained, “if a citizen is law-abiding in his home state, he or she is going to be law-abiding in a different state where they might find a firearm they want to buy, but the interstate sales ban prevents that. Citizens can purchase all sorts of other goods across state lines, but why not the one tool that is specifically mentioned and protected by the Constitution’s Second Amendment? That simply defies logic and common sense.”
Gottlieb is hopeful that the high court, with its new makeup that now includes Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, will be amenable to hearing another Second Amendment case. The court has been reluctant to accept another case since the 2010 McDonald decision that incorporated the Second Amendment to the states via the 14th Amendment.