Federal judge: Interstate handgun purchase bans are unconstitutional

02/12/15 9:00 AM | by

A U.S. District Court judge Wednesday ruled that the federal law prohibiting handgun sales to out of state residents filed is in violation of both the Second and Fifth amendments.

The Citizens Committee for the Rights to Keep and Bear Arms originally brought the case, Mance v. Eric H. Holder and B. Todd Jones, last July. The group filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth division, over the case of a couple from Washington, D.C. who tried to buy handguns from a federally licensed firearms dealer in Texas but could not due to federal law.

Under attack is the Federal Regulatory Regime set up by the Gun Control Act of 1968 that bars FFLs from selling handguns to potential eligible buyers who do not reside in the same state the dealer is located.

No such restriction applies to the interstate sale of rifles or shotguns.

“Our lawsuit strikes at the heart of a debate that has been ongoing for several years, since the creation of the National Instant Check System (NICS),” CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb said in a statement emailed to Guns.com. “With the advent of the NICS system, it makes no sense to perpetuate a ban on interstate transfers of handguns.”

In the 28-page ruling handed down by the court, the federal government is enjoined from the practice under concerns that the ban was in violation of constitutional rights.

“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,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor, a 2007 appointment by President George W. Bush. “Thus, even under intermediate scrutiny, the federal interstate handgun transfer ban is unconstitutional on its face.”

The plaintiffs in the suit included Frederic Mance Jr., a Texas FFL, and gun buyers Andrew and Tracey Hanson, of Washington, D.C. Mance wants to sell handguns to out of state consumers, such as the Hansons, but is precluded by federal law although the laws of Texas do not prohibit the transaction.

On June 21, 2014, the Hansons visited Mance’s gun shop in Texas but could not by law take possession of a handgun there. Mance could have shipped handguns bought by the couple in Texas to the District’s only FFL that handles interstate transfers, but according to the complaint, the dealer charges $125 per transfer in addition to shipping costs and other fees.

This, concluded O’Connor, was a burden on the Hanson’s Second Amendment rights, citing, “the federal interstate handgun transfer ban targets the entire national market of handgun sales and directly burdens law-abiding, responsible citizens who seek to complete otherwise lawful transactions for handguns.”

Mance was helmed by noted gun rights attorney Alan Gura, who is responsible for a number of big wins in past cases such as Heller, McDonald and Palmer.

“Americans would never tolerate a ban on the interstate sale of books or contraceptives,” said Gura in a forwarded statement. “And Americans are free to buy rifles and shotguns outside their state of residence, so long as the dealers respect the laws of the buyer’s home state. We’re gratified that the Court agreed that handguns should be treated no differently.”

It is likely that the case will now proceed to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

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