On Wednesday, federal Judge Reed O’Connor overturned a longstanding ban on handgun transfers between individuals living in separate states, declaring the ban unconstitutional.
Reed, judge for the U.S. Court for the Northern District of Texas, issued a 28-page decision in the case, which pitted a trio of individuals with support from the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and ATF Director B. Todd Jones.
The plaintiffs argued the ban not only violates the 2nd Amendment, but also “limits their choices as consumers, harms competition in the market and raises prices.” Holder and Jones had motioned for the case to be dismissed.
Instead, O’Connor agreed fully with the plaintiffs, finding the interstate ban on handgun transfers violates both the 2nd Amendment and the due process clause of the 5th Amendment.
Here’s what O’Connor had to say about the latter (some legal references have been omitted for readability but can be found in the original):
Plaintiffs contend that, because the laws discriminate based on residence, Defendants’ enforcement of the federal interstate handgun transfer ban violates Plaintiffs’ right to equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment provides, in relevant part: “No person shall… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The Supreme Court has consistently held that the Due Process Clause contains an equal protection component, which prohibits the United States from discriminating between individuals or groups.
“[E]qual protection analysis requires strict scrutiny of a legislative classification only when the classification impermissibly interferes with the exercise of a fundamental right or operates to the peculiar disadvantage of a suspect class.” Mass. Bd. of Ret. v. Murgia, 427 U.S. 307, 312 (1976). Here, the federal interstate handgun transfer ban interferes with the exercise of a fundamental right. The Supreme Court has also held that strict scrutiny is required where the challenged classification impinges on residency. The Supreme Court applied strict scrutiny in situations where state laws discriminated against non-residents, and those cases involved benefits offered by the state, not constitutional rights. …Based on the strict scrutiny analysis above, the Court finds that the federal interstate handgun transfer ban also violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
O’Connor also rejected the defendants’ arguments that the ban is intended to bolster public safety, writing that it “is not substantially related to address safety concerns. Thus, even under intermediate scrutiny, the federal interstate handgun transfer ban is unconstitutional on its face.”
Alan Gura, the 2nd Amendment attorney who helped the plaintiffs argue and win the case, said the ban, from its inception, was a “bizarre and irrational” application of burdensome restrictions on interstate commerce — one that doesn’t pass the smell test when applied to other legal goods.
“It is bizarre and irrational to destroy the national market for an item that Americans have a fundamental right to purchase,” Gura said.
“Americans would never tolerate a ban on the interstate sale of books or contraceptives. 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.”