Kopel Blog Archive March-April 2012

Post-argument debate on the constitutionality of Obamacare

• April 18, 2012 12:00 am

Held at Denver University, Sturm College of Law, on April 11. Debaters were University of Colorado Prof. Scott Moss and me. Moderator is DU Prof. Ann Scales. WMV, via ftp.

Categories: Commerce Clause, Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Federalism, Health Care, Individual Mandate, Necessary and Proper, Taxing and Spending ClauseComments Off

Canada abolishes long gun registry

• April 5, 2012 6:17 pm

Yesterday the Canadian Senate voted 50-27 to abolish the long gun registry. Bill C-19 received unanimous support from Conservative Senators, and some support from Liberals. The bill had previously passed the House of Commons. It became the law of the land today, with the Royal Assent of Canada's Governor-General.

The bill does not change Canada's registration system for handguns, which has been in effect since the 1930s. Nor does it change the registration system for certain long guns which have been classified as "prohibited" or "restricted" weapons. Likewise unchanged is Canada's complicated and burdensome system for licensing gun owners, which was created by a Liberal government in the 1990s.

The registration changes, however, are monumental. Registration records for seven million ordinary long guns are to be destroyed. The government of Quebec has announced that it while file suit to attempt to obtain custody of the 1.5 million registration records pertaining to citizens of Quebec.

Ever since the regime of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in the 1970s, gun control in Canada has been primarily a culture war campaign against the "masculine" values of rural Canada, and as a means of demonstrating the dominance of Canada's urban New Class.

To this day, the foremost public justification for all forms of gun control is Gamil Rodrigue Gharbi (who changed his name Marc Lépine). Gharbi/Lépine was the son of an alcoholic, wife-beating, child abuser who had immigrated to Canada from Algeria. In 1989, he murdered 14 women (13 by gunshot, one by stabbing), and wounded 8 women and 4 men in the engineering building of a school affiliated with the University of Montreal. An incompetent response by police dispatchers to the 911 calls gave Gharbi/Lépine the opportunity to murder at leisure.

In The Montreal Massacre (gynergy books, 1991), Quebec feminists describe their outrage, and demanded the rehabilitation of masculinity, whose (allegedly) misogynist pro-death culture is based on aggressive sports, violent entertainment, and the penetration of women during sexual intercourse.

Canada's leading public proponent of gun control, Prof. Wendy Cukier, had previously proclaimed that in Canada, gun control is a one-way street; once restrictions are imposed, they are never lifted. This was never entirely accurate; popular demand forced the removal of some long gun restrictions that had been imposed during the World Wars. But the removal of a major peacetime anti-gun law truly does signal a new era in Canadian right to arms politics.

Efforts to repeal the long gun registry lasted 17 years, and they finally succeeded in part because the majority of Canadians have concluded that the registry was a colossal waste of money, of no value in crime control, and a pointless invasion of privacy.

Globally speaking, the repeal of the registry is the most important gun policy event of the last year. As the United Nations works towards a final draft of an Arms Trade Treaty this year, the Canadian public's rejection of registry adds to the challenges of the global gun control organizations which want the Treaty to include gun registration requirements.

An article in Forbes profiles Saskatchewan MP Garry Breitkreuz, whose tireless work was essential to the repeal. Breitkreuz, incidentally, had started out as a supporter of registration, and changed his mind after studying the evidence about whether it would help reduce crime. Kudos also to the Canadian Sport Shooting Association, to Canada's National Firearms Association, and especially to the late David Tomlinson, who passed away in 2007, and who for over three decades was the Founding Father and leader of Canada's right to arms movement.

Canadian gun owners know that much more needs to be done to undo the damage caused the kulturkampf which Trudeau began, and which has burdened Canadians with laws that do nothing to enhance public safety, but whose purpose and effect is to harass and persecute law-abiding gun owners. Bill C-19 is a good first step, and a monumental one.

Categories: Canada, Guns, RegistrationComments Off

President Obama versus the Constitution

• April 2, 2012 11:54 pm

President Obama today fired his opening salvo in an unprecedented attack on the Constitution of the United States. Regarding the impending Supreme Court ruling on the health control law, the President said, "Ultimately, I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress."

His factual claims are false. His principle is a direct assault on the Constitution's creation of an independent judicial branch as a check on constitutional violations by the other two branches.

It is certainly not "unprecedented" for the Court to overturn a law passed by "a democratically elected Congress." The Court has done so 165 times, as of 2010. (See p. 201 of this Congressional Research Service report.)

President Obama can call legislation enacted by a vote of 219 to 212 a "strong" majority if he wishes. But there is nothing in the Constitution suggesting that a bill which garners the votes of 50.3% of the House of Representatives has such a "strong" majority that it therefore becomes exempt from judicial review. To the contrary, almost all of the 165 federal statutes which the Court has ruled unconstitutional had much larger majorities, most of them attracted votes from both Democrats and Republicans, and some of them were enacted nearly unanimously.

That the Supreme Court would declare as unconstitutional congressional "laws" which illegally violated the Constitution was one of the benefits of the Constitution, which the Constitution's advocates used to help convince the People to ratify the Constitution. In Federalist 78, Alexander Hamilton explained why unconstitutional actions of Congress are not real laws, and why the judiciary has a duty to say so:

There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid. . . .

Nor does this conclusion by any means suppose a superiority of the judicial to the legislative power. It only supposes that the power of the people is superior to both; and that where the will of the legislature, declared in its statutes, stands in opposition to that of the people, declared in the Constitution, the judges ought to be governed by the latter rather than the former. They ought to regulate their decisions by the fundamental laws, rather than by those which are not fundamental.

Because Hamilton was the foremost "big government" advocate of his time, it is especially notable that he was a leading advocate for judicial review of whether any part of the federal government had exceeded its delegated powers.

Well before Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court recognized that the People had given the Court the inescapable duty of reviewing the constitutionality of statutes which came before the Court. The Court fulfilled this duty in cases such as Hylton v. U.S. (1796) (Is congressional tax on carriages a direct tax, and therefore illegal because it is not apportioned according to state population?); and Calder v. Bull (1798) (Is Connecticut change in inheritance laws an ex post facto law?). The Court found that the particular statutes in question did not violate the Constitution. (The ex post facto clause applies only to criminal laws; the carriage tax was an indirect tax, not a direct tax.) However, the Court's authority to judge the statutes' constitutionality was not disputed.

It would not be unfair to charge President Obama with hypocrisy given his strong complaints when the Court did not strike down the federal ban on partial birth abortions, and given his approval of the Supreme Court decision (Boumediene v. Bush) striking down a congressional statute restricting habeas corpus rights of Guantanamo detainees. (For the record, I think that the federal abortion ban should have been declared void as because it was not within Congress's interstate commerce power, and that Boumediene was probably decided correctly, although I have not studied the issue sufficiently to have a solid opinion.) The federal ban on abortion, and the federal restriction on habeas corpus were each passed with more than a "strong" 50.3% majority of a democratically elected Congress.

As a politician complaining that a Supreme Court which should strike down laws he doesn't like, while simultaneously asserting that a judicial decision against a law he does like is improperly "activist," President Obama is no more hypocritical than many other Presidents. But in asserting that the actions of a "strong" majority of Congress are unreviewable, President Obama's word are truly unprecedented. Certainly no President in the last 150 years has claimed asserted that a "strong" majority of Congress can exempt a statute from judicial review. President Lincoln's First Inaugural criticized the Dred Scott majority for using a case between two private litigants for its over-reaching into a major national question, but Lincoln affirmed that the Court can, and should, provide a binding resolution to disputes between the parties before the Court. And in 2012, the government of the United States is one of the parties before the Court. (And the government is before the Court in part because the government filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to ask the Court to use its discretion to decide the case.)

Alone among the Presidents, Thomas Jefferson appears as a strong opponent of judicial review per se. Notably, he did not propose that Congress be the final judge of its own powers, especially when Congress intruded on matters which the Constitution had reserved to the States. Rather, Jefferson argued that in such a dispute the matter should be resolved by a Convention of the States, and the States would be make the final decision. Given that 28 States have already appeared as parties in court arguing that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, we can make a good guess about what a Convention would decide about the constitutionality of the health control law.

President Obama, however, wants Obamacare to be reviewable by no-one: not by the Supreme Court, not by the States. You can find professors and partisans who have argued for such lawlessness, but for a President to do so is unprecedented.

The People gave Congress the enumerated power "To regulate Commerce . . . among the several States." According to the Obama administration, this delegation of power also includes the power to compel commerce. Opponents contend that the power to regulate commerce does not include the far greater power to compel commerce, and that the individual mandate is therefore an ultra vires act by a deputy (Congress) in violation of the grant of power from the principal (the People). Seventy-two percent of the public, including a majority of Democrats, agrees that the mandate is unconstitutional. Few acts of Congress have ever had such sustained opposition of a supermajority of the American public.

President Obama today has considerably raised the stakes in Sebelius v. Florida. At issue now is not just the issue of whether Congress can commandeer the People and compel them to purchase the products of a particular oligopoly. At issue is whether the Court will bow to a President who denies they very legitimacy of judicial review of congressional statutes–or at least those that statutes which garnered the "strong" majority of 219 out of 435 Representatives.

Categories: Congress, Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Constitutional Theory, Counter-Terrorism Policy, Executive Branch, Federalism, Growth of Government, Habeas, Health Care, History, Individual Mandate, Jefferson, Judicial Power, Obama, Presidency, Public Opinion, Supreme Court, Uncategorized, War on TerrorComments Off

Andy Koppelman wonders: Are people who disagree with him just stupid, or are are they insane?

• April 1, 2012 4:48 pm

For over the two years, the very intelligent and clever professors at Balkinization have been doing a great job up trying to come up with legal arguments in support of the health control law. Even people who were not persuaded by the arguments can see how they have contributed to the debate. The first item I wrote on the health control law was back on March 22, 2010, responding to an article by Jack Balkin in the New England Journal of Medicine regarding the tax power. (Incidentally, this may make me the second VC writer–very distantly second after Randy himself–to state in writing that the health control law is unconstitutional under modern law, not just under original meaning. )

My Independence Institute colleague Rob Natelson (U. Montana law school) first wrote on the constitutionality of the health control law on Jan. 23, 2010, responding to a Los Angeles Times essay by Akhil Amar, who also writes for Balkinization. (Making Natelson the 1st full-time law professor to write something on Barnett's side of the issue.)

I think that the VC and Balkinization have jointly helped to elevate the constitutional analysis by the courts and by the public, especially when VC and Bk have engaged and addressed each other's arguments. Both VC and Bk kept right on going last week, with plenty of arguments for the Court made during the period between the end of oral argument on Wednesday and the Court's conference on Friday.

In the health control law debate, VC and Balkinization have each had one outlier. At VC, our outlier was Orin Kerr, who remains unconvinced by the arguments developed by Randy et al. Orin's public questions and challenges have helped spur the health control skeptics to refine their arguments, and to state them more precisely and clearly.

Balkinization has a different kind of outlier. Andy Koppelman has spent two years penning variations of his thesis: "Everyone who doesn't agree with me is stupid."

As noted below by Randy, Koppleman's latest essay explores the implications of his certitude that "the silliness of the constitutional arguments against the mandate is apparent to any competent lawyer who assesses them in good faith." Because every competent lawyer knows that Koppelman is right, how could anyone, including Supreme Court Justices, purport to disagree?

There could be only two possible explanations for such a frivolous opinion: (1) a naked assertion of raw power by politicized right-wing justices contemptuous of democratic processes, or (2) a sort of mass hallucination induced by the inane rantings produced by the echo chamber of the right-wing blogosphere.

Thus, says Koppelman, everyone, including lower federal courts, should "nullify" a Supreme Court decision holding the health control law unconstitutional.

I'll leave it up to the readers to decide whether the Supreme Court saying that Congress can't force people to buy overpriced products from the Big Insurance oligopoly merits the same sort of response that Kentucky offered to a congressional statute which (as actually enforced) outlawed criticism of the President, or which Wisconsin offered to a federal statute purporting to conscript Wisconsin citizens into enforcement of the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

But I will say this, from an organizational behavior perspective. An organization whose task involves persuasive communications can sometimes be strengthened if there is one person in the organization who can thoughtfully say "Here's why I think the rest of you may be wrong, and here are what I see to be the weaknesses in your argument." In contrast, an organization will not improve its persuasive effectiveness if the organization pays any attention to a fanatical member who insists, "No, the people on the other side aren't just wrong. They MAD I tell you! MAD! They live in an echo chamber, and can't even consider contrary ideas. Isn't that obviously CRAZY!!?"

For my own exchanges with Professor Koppelman, see Bad News for Professor Koppelman: The Incidental Unconstitutionality of the Individual Mandate, 121 Yale Law Journal Online 267 (2011), and Bad News for John Marshall, 121 Yale Law Journal Online 529 (2012), both of which were co-authored BU's Gary Lawson. A shorter version of the Lawson/Kopel thesis on the Necessary and Proper clause is available at The Incidental Unconstitutionality of the Individual Mandate, Legal Workshop. Feb. 6, 2012.

[Epilogue: April Fool's. On me. Larry Solum of Legal Theory occasionally posts abstracts of "articles" by famous professors which are actually Solum-written parodies that take the professor's approach and push it just one more, somewhat plausible, step into absurdity. In real life, Koppelman does accuse critics of the health control law of acting "in the spirit of a saboteur in wartime," and he did characterize the Lawson/Kopel argument for obeying the original meaning of the Necessary and Proper clause, as expounded in McCulloch, as "insane." But he never called for nullifying a Supreme Court decision; and while he has always said that there are no non-"silly" arguments against the health control law, he has never posited mass insanity as an alternative explanation to his theory that the only way for the health control law to be ruled unconstitutional would be political bias by the judges. And congratulations to Larry Solum, who is never insane, always brilliant, and sometimes silly.]

Categories: Constitutional Law, Constitutional Theory, Health Care, Individual Mandate, Psychology, UncategorizedComments Off

Nearing the end of the search for the non-existent limiting principles

• March 29, 2012 4:47 am

With the Supreme Court probably voting on the constitutionality of Obamacare (a term the President proudly embraces) on Friday, the health control law's academic friends are diligently attempting to do what the entire United States Department of Justice could not do after two years of litigation: articulate plausible limiting principles for the individual mandate. Over at Balkinization, Neil Siegel offers Five Limiting Principles. They are:

1. The Necessary and Proper Clause. "Unlike other purchase mandates, including every hypothetical at oral argument on Tuesday, the minimum coverage provision prevents the unraveling of a market that Congress has clear authority to regulate." This is no limitation at all. Under modern doctrine, Congress has the authority to regulate almost every market. If Congress enacts regulations that are extremely harmful to that market, such as imposing price controls (a/k/a "community rating") or requiring sellers to sell products at far below cost to some customers (e.g., "guaranteed issue") then the market will probably "unravel" (that is, the companies will lose so much money that they go out of business). So to prevent the companies from being destroyed, Congress forces other consumers to buy products from those companies at vastly excessive prices (e.g., $5,000 for an individual policy for a health 35-year-old whose actuarial expenditures for health care of all sorts during a year is $845).

So Siegel's argument is really an anti-limiting principle: if Congress imposes ruinous price controls on a market, to help favored consumers, then Congress can try to save the market's producers by mandating that disfavored consumers buy overpriced products from those producers.

2. The Commerce Clause. "The minimum coverage provision addresses economic problems, not merely social problems that do not involve markets." This is true, and is, as Siegel points out, a distinction from Lopez (carrying guns) and Morrison (gender-related violence). However, it's pretty clear under long-established doctrine that the Commerce power can be used to address "social problems that do not involve markets." E.g., Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470 (1917) (Congress can use the interstate commerce power to criminalize interstate travel by people intending to engage in non-commercial extra-marital sex); Champion v. Ames, 188 U.S. 321 (1903) ("What clause can be cited which, in any degree, countenances the suggestion that one may, of right, carry or cause to be carried from one state to another that which will harm the public morals?"). Personally, I thought that Chief Justice Fuller's dissent in Champion had the better argument, but Champion and its progeny are well-established precedents, so proposed limiting principle number two does not work, unless we overrule a century of precedent.

Besides that, #2 does not work for the same reason that #1 does not work. If Congress forced food producers to sell products to some consumers at far below cost, then Congress could (for economic, not social/moral motives) force other consumers to buy overpriced food, so that the producers do not go bankrupt. Imagine that instead of the Food Stamp program (general tax revenue given to 1/6 of the U.S. population to help them buy food), Congress forced grocery stores to sell food to poor people at far below cost. And instead of raising taxes in order to give money to the grocery stores to make up for their losses on the coerced sales, Congress instead forced other consumers to spend thousands of dollars on food from those same stores, which would be sold to those consumers at far above its free market price.

If there's a limiting principle, the only one seems to be that in order to mandate the purchase of a product, Congress must also inflict some other harm on the producers of the product, which the coerced purchases will ameliorate.

3. "Collective action failures and interstate externalities impede the ability of the states to guarantee access to health insurance, prevent adverse selection, and prevent cost shifting by acting on their own. Insurers operate in multiple states and have fled from states that guarantee access to states that do not." This is really a policy argument for Obamacare. Hypothesizing that it's a good policy argument, it's not a limiting principle. That the advocates of Obamacare think that the policy arguments for their mandate is better than the policy arguments for other mandates does not provide courts with a limiting principle of law.

Moreover, the policy argument is wrong. It's true that some insurance companies stop operating in states where the law forces them to sell insurance to legislatively-favored purchasers at far below the actuarial cost of the insurance, with the legislature failing to compensate the companies for the enormous resulting losses. If you make it difficult for companies to operate profitably in your state, then they will eventually stop operating in your state. It's not a collective action problem; it's just a problem of several states enacting laws that prevent companies from covering their costs. Any state with guaranteed issue and other price controls can solve the problem immediately by simply using tax revenues pay compensation for the subsidy which the state law forces the insurance companies to provide to certain consumers.

Obamacare is a particularly weak case in which to argue that the federal government is riding the rescue of the states to solve a collective action problem. For the first time in American history, a majority of the States are suing to ask that a federal law be declared unconstitutional. These states are taking collective action to stop the federal government from imposing a problem on them.

4. The Tax Power. "[T]he minimum coverage provision respects the limits on the tax power. The difference between a tax and a penalty is the difference between the minimum coverage provision and a required payment of say, $10,000 that has a scienter requirement and increases with each month that an individual remains uninsured. Unlike the minimum coverage provision, such an exaction would be so coercive that it would raise little or no revenue. It would thus be beyond the scope of the tax power."

Let's put aside the fact that, however ingenious the progressive professoriate's tax arguments have been, the chances that the individual mandate is going to be upheld under the tax power appear to be at most 1% greater than the chance the Buddy Roemer will be the next President of the United States.

Presuming that Siegel's tax justification for the individual mandate is valid, it is an anti-limiting principle. Congress can indeed mandate eating hamburgers, smoking, not smoking, not eating hamburgers, or anything else Congress wants to mandate, as long as Congress sets the "tax" at level that will raise a moderate amount of revenue, does not include a scienter requirement, and does not make the "tax" increase each month that the individual refuses to do what Congress mandates.

5. Liberty. "The minimum coverage provision does not violate any individual rights, including bodily integrity and substantive due process more generally. These rights would be violated by a mandate to eat broccoli or exercise a certain amount." Pointing to the existence of the Bill of Rights is not an example of a limiting principle for an enumerated federal power. The Constitution does not say that Congress may do whatever it wishes as long as the Bill of Rights protections of Liberty are not violated. Ordering New York State to take title to low-level radioactive waste generated within the state (New York v. United States) did not violate any person's substantive due process rights, but the order was nonetheless unconstitutional because it exceeded Congress's powers. The federal Gun-Free School Zones Act did not, as applied, violate the Second Amendment rights of Alfonso Lopez, who was carrying the gun to deliver it to a criminal gang. Yet the Act still exceeded Congress's commerce power. A limiting principle must limit the exercise of the power itself, not merely point out that the Bill of Rights protects some islands of Liberty which the infinitely vast sea of federal power might not cover.

Finally, I certainly agree with Professor Siegel that the Fifth Amendment's liberty guarantee (and its 14th Amendment analogue for the states) should be interpreted to say that no American government can order people to consume a certain amount of healthy food, or to exercise. But there is no major case that is on point for this. The argument for a new unenumerated right "not to eat the minimum quantity of nutritious food which government scientists have determined is essential for good health" is something that would have to be built almost entirely by extrapolation from cases that have nothing to do with food. I hope that courts would accept the argument; but if the political culture ever moved far enough so that a nutrition mandate could pass a legislature, I'm not as certain as Prof. Siegel that courts would overturn the mandate. The odds of winning a case against a nutrition mandate will be better if the judges who decide that case have not grown up in a nation where a federal health control mandate is the law of the land.

Categories: Commerce Clause, Constitutional Law, Federalism, Fifth Amendment, Growth of Government, Guns, Health Care, Individual Mandate, Necessary and Proper, New Class, Regulation, Supreme Court, Taxes, UncategorizedComments Off

Florida's Self-Defense Laws

• March 27, 2012 11:59 pm

Media coverage of Florida's self-defense laws in recent weeks has often been very inaccurate. While some persons, particularly from the gun prohibition lobbies, have claimed that the Martin/Zimmerman case shows the danger of Florida's "Stand your ground" law, that law is legally irrelevant to case. So let's take a look at what the Florida laws actually say. Continue reading ‘Florida's Self-Defense Laws' »

Categories: Crime Victims Rights, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Guns, Self-DefenseComments Off

Publication party for "Firearms Law and the Second Amendment"

• March 8, 2012 4:09 pm

On Friday, March 9, Fordham Law School is holding an all-day symposium on the Second Amendment. The event is free, and open to the public. Or if you would prefer to pay, you can get CLE credits. Among the speakers are Gary Kleck, Nelson Lund, Robert Cottrol, Nicholas Johnson, Adam Winkler, and me.

After the event ends at 5 p.m., we are going to have an informal event to celebrate the publication of the new law school textbook Firearms Law & the Second Amendment; Regulation, Rights, and Policy. (By Nicholas J. Johnson , David B. Kopel , George A. Mocsary , Michael P. O'Shea.) Three of the four co-authors (Johnson, Kopel, and Mocsary) will be there. Our tentative plan is to hang around Fordham for a little while, and then proceed to P.J. Clark's at 44 W. 63rd Street in Manhattan. VC readers are welcome to join us.

Or if you would just like to buy the book, you can order it from Amazon, or from the Aspen Publishers link, above.

Categories: Guns

Right to carry victory in Colorado: Students for Concealed Carry on Campus v. Regents

• March 5, 2012 2:21 pm

Colorado's 2003 Concealed Carry Act provides that licenses issued pursuant to the CCA shall be valid "in all areas of the state, except as specifically limited" by other portions of the CCA (such as the rule that CCA licensees can have a gun in the car when they are on K-12 school property, but may not carry the gun outside the car). Nevertheless, the University of Colorado refused to allow licensed carry on the university's campuses, and maintained its policy of automatic expulsion or firing for any student or faculty member who violated the policy. CU likewise insisted on its right to forbid automobile carry by licensees whose east-west travel in Boulder took them through Colorado Avenue, a street which passes through the CU campus, but which is used by many persons who never stop at CU.

In a case brought by Mountain States Legal Foundation attorney Jim Manley, the district court dismissed the plaintiffs' claims. The Court of Appeals reversed, and the Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Today, the Colorado Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision written by Justice Allison Eid, affirmed the Court of Appeals. The Court held that the CCA entirely preempts the University of Colorado's power to prohibit licensed carry. The Court rejected CU's theory that because the University is created by the State Constitution, the Concealed Carry Act could only apply to the University if the statute expressly mentioned CU.

Because the case could be fully decided on statutory grounds, the Court declined to address constitutional issues involving the right of self-defense (Colo. Const., art. II, sect. 3) and the right to arms (art. II, sect. 13).

The case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings.

Since the 2003 CCA, non-interference with licensed carry has been the practices at the campuses of Colorado State University (whose main campus is in Fort Collins). Since the April 2010 decision of the Court of Appeals, all other public colleges and universities in Colorado (except for CU) have acquiesced to licensed carry. Today's decision removes the last hold-out, the last of the Colorado public institutions of higher education which was attempting to maintain a policy of segregation against people who exercised their civil rights.

I first met Jim Manley when he was President of the CU Federalist Society, and he invited me to campus to speak on the day of the SCCC "empty holster" protest against CU's civil rights ban. As a MSLF, he has played a leading role in many important cases, but it is an especially impressive accomplishment for a young attorney from a small public interest law firm to win a unanimous state Supreme Court victory against an institution whose largest campus (Boulder) has an annual budget of over a billion dollars.

My amicus brief on behalf of the County Sheriffs of Colorado is here. The Supreme Court decision is here. [Link fixed.]

Categories: Uncategorized0 Comments

Right to carry victory in Maryland: Woollard v. Sheridan

• March 5, 2012 1:37 pm

Earlier today, Maryland federal district Benson Everett Legg decided the case of Woollard v. Sheridan. Plaintiffs on the case are Robert Woollard and the Second Amendment Foundation. The lead attorney for plaintiffs is Alan Gura, the winning attorney in D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago.

As explained in the district court's Dec. 2010 ruling, rejecting a motion to dismiss:

Plaintiff Woollard initially obtained a handgun carry permit after he was assaulted by an intruder in his home in 2002. The permit was renewed in 2005. At that time, the intruder had recently been released from prison, providing a "good and substantial reason" for Woollard to carry a firearm. In 2009, Woollard again sought to renew his permit so that he could carry a handgun for self defense. MSP Secretary Sheridan denied Woollard's application, however, because Woollard failed to provide sufficient evidence "to support apprehended fear."

At issue in the case is the Maryland statute which says that the Secretary of the State Police can issue a carry permit if the applicant "has good and substantial reason to wear, carry, or transport a handgun, such as a finding that the permit is necessary as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger." Md.Code Ann., Pub. Safety sect. 5-306(a)(5)(ii).

In today's decision on the merits, the "good and substantial reason" requirement was ruled to violate the Second Amendment. The court held that the Second Amendment right is not limited to self-defense in the home. It also includes the militia and hunting. None of the Second Amendment rights can logically be confined solely to the home: "In addition to self-defense, the right was also understood to allow for militia membership and hunting. To secure these rights, the Second Amendment‘s protections must extend beyond the home: neither hunting nor militia training is a household activity, and ‘self-defense has to take place wherever [a] person happens to be'."

The internal quotation, by the way, is from Eugene Volokh, Implementing the Right to Keep and Bear Arms for Self-Defense: An Analytical Framework and a Research Agenda, 56 UCLA L. Rev. 1443 (2009). Based on judicial citations, the Volokh article appears to be by far the most influential post-Heller article on the Second Amendment.

The Maryland carry license law was not "narrowly tailored," says the Woollard opinion. Moreover, "A citizen may not be required to offer a ‘good and substantial reason' why he should be permitted to exercise his rights." Rather, "The right's existence is all the reason he needs."

The case is headed to the Fourth Circuit, which has a mixed record on Second Amendment issues. From there, Woollard could be the case in which the Supreme Court chooses to tell recalcitrant lower federal courts that Heller and McDonald really do mean what they say: that the Second Amendment includes the right to carry, albeit not in "sensitive places," and the government may, if it wishes, require that carry be open rather than concealed.

The SAF press release is here, and a terse AP story is here. Congratulations to Alan Gura and to SAF President Alan Gottlieb!

Categories: Guns, Right to carry

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