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Media Alerts - Dearth v. Lynch
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June 23, 2015
  Dearth v. Lynch
Headline: DC Circuit remands constitutional challenge to laws barring non-resident citizens from purchasing guns in the United States for trial on the merits

Area of Law: Second Amendment

Issue(s) Presented: Whether laws preventing citizens who do not reside in the US from purchasing guns violate the Second Amendment.

Brief Summary
: Stephen Dearth, an American citizen residing in Canada, twice tried unsuccessfully to purchase guns in the United States. On both occasions, he was unable to complete a federally mandated ATF form that required him to identify the state in which he resided. Dearth and the non-profit Second Amendment Foundation filed suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief claiming that portions of 18 U.S.C. § 922 and their implementing regulations violate the Second Amendment.

In 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit determined that Dearth had standing to pursue his claims. On remand, the district court granted the government's motion for summary judgment, and Dearth appealed. In the second appearance of this case before it, a strongly divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit remanded for trial on the merits.

While conceding that "it may well be that ... there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact," the D.C. Circuit determined that this case raised "an extremely important question" for which summary procedures were not appropriate, particularly as Dearth had raised as-applied as well as facial challenges. Concluding that there were too many questions left unanswered by the district court proceedings, the court exercised its discretion to remand the case for trial.

Judge Griffith concurred in the judgment. He sided with the dissent in concluding that there were enough facts in the record to decide the case but disagreed with the dissent on the merits.

Judge Henderson, dissenting, concluded that the court had sufficient information to decide the case. Applying the two-step analysis that the court had adopted for Second Amendment litigation on the wake of District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S 570 (2008), the dissent argued that the amendment's core protections were not implicated by laws that affect one's ability to carry a firearm outside his home and that the application of intermediate scrutiny compelled the conclusion that the challenged provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 922, insofar as they banned sale of firearms to non-resident citizens, were constitutional.

For the full text of this opinion, please visit

Panel (if known): Henderson, Griffith, Randolph

Argument Date (if known): 9/19/2013; 3/9/2015

Date of Issued Opinion: 6/23/2015

Docket Number: 12-5305

Decided: Reversed and remanded

Case Alert Author: Ripple L. Weistling

Counsel (if known): Alan Gura for appellants. Daniel Tenny for appellee.

Author of Opinion: Randolph

Dissent: Henderson

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Elizabeth Beske, Ripple Weistling

    Posted By: Ripple Weistling @ 06/23/2015 02:19 PM     DC Circuit  

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