Posts Tagged ‘guns’

December 4 roundup

SCOTUS declines to intervene in Sandy Hook gunmaker case for now

I joined the Lars Larson Show on Tuesday to talk about the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing a suit against Remington over the Sandy Hook massacre to proceed for now [earlier]. The current suit, as green-lighted by the Connecticut Supreme Court earlier this year over a dissent from three of its seven justices, claims that Remington violated the broad provisions on deceptive marketing of a state consumer protection law, the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA). It should be emphasized that the case is still at an early stage and that the Justices will probably be presented with further opportunities to pronounce on its compatibility with the federal law that pre-empts most gun suits, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA).

I’ve got a new post up at Cato at Liberty taking a more extended look at the ruling and what lies ahead for gunmaker litigation.

Supreme Court roundup

A Cato-centric selection:

  • Massachusetts bans the most popular variety of self-defense firearms and that violates the Second Amendment, as SCOTUS should make clear [Ilya Shapiro and James T. Knight II on Cato Institute amicus brief in Worman v. Healey] Congress has never passed a law criminalizing the accessories known as bump stocks and the Executive branch can’t change that on its own [Trevor Burrus and James Knight, Guedes v. BATF]
  • Three more Cato certiorari amicus briefs: With return of Little Sisters case, Court should make clear that scope of accommodation under Religious Freedom Restoration Act is not for executive agencies to expand and contract accordion-like [Ilya Shapiro and Sam Spiegelman] Berkeley, Calif.’s ordinance requiring disclosure of the purported risks of cell phone radio frequency (RF) exposure poses First Amendment questions of forced commercial speech [Ilya Shapiro and Michael Collins on return to SCOTUS of CTIA v. Berkeley] Supreme Court has rejected attempt to use Alien Tort Statute to assert universal jurisdiction over human-rights abuses in overseas business, but Ninth Circuit still hasn’t gotten the message [Ilya Shapiro and Dennis Garcia, Nestle v. Doe]
  • Summing up the last Court term: speech by Miguel Estrada and a short video with Ilya Shapiro for the Federalist Society;
  • “Fearful that the Supreme Court will reject a broad interpretation of the CWA’s [Clean Water Act’s] scope, environmentalist groups have been seeking to settle the Maui case before the Court rules.” [Jonathan Adler on Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund]
  • Another case of surprise plain meaning? Advocates argue that Congress didn’t really end Indian reservation status for much of the state of Oklahoma even if everyone at the time thought it did [Will Baude on Sharp v. Murphy; earlier on surprise plain meaning]
  • “An Introduction to Constitutional Law: 100 Supreme Court Cases Everyone Should Know” [new book by Randy Barnett and Josh Blackman; described here, and discussed in this Cato video]

October 23 roundup

“The First Amendment does not depend on whether everyone is in on the joke.”

“…when it comes to parody, the law requires a reasonable reader standard, not a ‘most gullible person on Facebook’ standard. The First Amendment does not depend on whether everyone is in on the joke.” — Judge Amul Thapar, Sixth Circuit, writing on behalf of a unanimous panel that “an Ohio man who was acquitted of a felony after creating a parody Facebook page that mocked a suburban Cleveland police department can sue the city and two police officers over his arrest.” [Jonathan Stempel, Reuters]

Related: everyone has the right to call politicians idiots, and that goes for gun store owners too [Eugene Volokh; North Carolina gun store owner’s billboard likened by sitting member of Congress to “inciting violence”]

San Francisco: forget that NRA contractor blacklist

A memo last week from San Francisco Mayor London Breed made clear that “the City’s contracting processes and policies have not changed and will not change as a result of the Resolution” by the Board of Supervisors branding the National Rifle Association a domestic terrorist group. [Joshua Koehn, San Francisco Chronicle] The resolution had proclaimed that the city should take all reasonable steps to identify and limit business and financial links between its vendors and contractors and the membership organization, but Breed pointed out that the city enacts changes to its law only by ordinance, not by resolution, which means the swaggering language had no effect off the playground. It had been widely predicted that courts would strike down a move by the city to coerce contractors in this way. Earlier here and here.

Constitutional law roundup

  • Does the Constitution allow Arizona to frame a new tax in such a way that de facto, though not de jure, nearly all of it falls on out-of-state residents? [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
  • Writer and star of one-act play “isn’t a fan of America’s founding charter — which may be why her audiences are such big fans of hers.” [Andrew Ferguson, The Atlantic]
  • Pentagon has lately developed aerial surveillance technology with near-panopticon capabilities. OK to deploy over home territory? [Cato video with Patrick G. Eddington, Arthur Holland Michel, and Jenna McLaughlin on Michel’s book Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How It Will Watch Us All]
  • Ilya Shapiro discusses New York Rifle and Pistol Association v. the City of New York [National Constitution Center We the People podcast; earlier here, here, and here] “Maryland’s gun permit system is challenged — and it’s probably unconstitutional” [my post at Free State Notes] “3-D Printed Guns & the First Amendment” [Federalist Society Policy Brief video with John Stossel and Josh Blackman]
  • Tradcons are kidding themselves if they imagine they can get a better constitutional deal outside the current legal conservative movement with its commitment to a broadly fusionist originalism, argues John McGinnis [Liberty and Law] “Originalism as ideology” [Michael Greve]
  • “Guam officials seek to hold referendum allowing voters to express their opinion about the future of the relationship between Guam and the United States but will only permit ‘Native Inhabitants of Guam’ to vote. Ninth Circuit: Which means restricting voting based upon race, which is explicitly prohibited by the Fifteenth Amendment.” [Institute for Justice “Short Circuit” on Davis v. Guam]

Yes, liability suits can endanger Constitutional rights

In March the Connecticut Supreme Court, over a dissent from three of its seven justices, ruled that the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) did not pre-empt a state unfair-trade-practice statute for purposes of allowing suits against the maker of the rifle used in the Sandy Hook massacre — this even though the firearm in question was never marketed or sold to the killer, who stole it from his mother who had purchased it lawfully long before. As expected, gunmaker Remington has now filed a certiorari petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking for a ruling clarifying the scope of the federal law.

The Cato Institute together with the Independent Institute has filed an amicus brief in the case [Trevor Burrus, Cato] urging the high court to review the Connecticut decision and accord the intended broad effect to Congress’s pre-emption of state litigation intended to achieve gun control by other means.

The brief emphasizes two lines of argument that I find exactly to the point. First, under the right circumstances, the workings of tort lawsuits can impinge on individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution: exorbitant libel verdicts can menace freedom of speech, and similarly stretching of tort and public nuisance law can endanger Second Amendment rights. It is worth making explicit the parallels between the Supreme Court’s acknowledgment of the first in New York Times v. Sullivan and Congress’s recognition of the second in its passage of PLCAA.

It is noteworthy that in both cases the line-drawing came in response to litigation campaigns intended to challenge, or chip away at, the rights in question. By organizing costly libel suits against defendants that included the New York Times, some Southern partisans hoped to silence voices critical of the status quo in their part of the country (and deter others). Decades later, advocates of gun control teamed up with government officials in a litigation campaign intended to force the firearms industry into negotiations by threatening it with bankruptcy through litigation costs, whether it won or lost its cases.

Writes David Kopel: “In both cases, the stakes are the same: whether the Supreme Court will allow the misuse of tort suits to destroy an enumerated right.” What the Supreme Court is being asked to do in this case, namely give effect to Congressional intention in a statutory interpretation case, is less ambitious and far-reaching than what it was asked to do in Sullivan, namely craft entirely new Constitutional law to respond to the problem.

San Francisco NRA resolution, cont’d

San Francisco’s resolution denouncing the National Rifle Association (earlier) might seem like so much empty wind. But there are practical reasons why such a designation poses a problem. I talk with
Caleb Brown for the Cato Daily Podcast.

Relatedly, and in no surprise, the NRA itself has sued San Francisco over the resolution, although there may be questions about whether a contractor at risk of losing city business might have a sounder claim to standing. [AP] Jacob Sullum cites “the poisonous tendency to portray one’s political opponents as mass murderers.” [Reason] And the supervisors may have a bigger group of co-thinkers out there than you might expect: 18% of voters polled “think it should be against the law to belong to pro-gun rights groups like the NRA.” [Eugene Volokh]