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Media Alerts - New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass'n, Inc., et al. v. Cuomo, et. al.; Connecticut Citizens' Defense League v. Malloy
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October 19, 2015
  New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass'n, Inc., et al. v. Cuomo, et. al.; Connecticut Citizens' Defense League v. Malloy
Headline: Second Circuit Upholds Bulk of Gun Control Legislation Enacted by New York and Connecticut Post-Sandy Hook

Area of Law: Constitutional Law

Issue Presented:Whether the New York and Connecticut gun control laws prohibiting possession of semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines violate the Second Amendment and provide constitutionally sufficient notice of the conduct proscribed.

Brief Summary: Motivated by the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School mass murder in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as by other mass shootings, New York and Connecticut amended their state assault-weapons bans in 2013. Both states' gun control legislation broadened the definition of prohibited "assault weapons" and banned large-capacity-magazines that could hold more than ten rounds of ammunition. New York's law also prohibited possession of a magazine loaded with more than seven rounds of ammunition (a "load limit"). Connecticut's law did not include a "load limit," but did include a list of 183 particular assault weapons that were banned. Plaintiffs - a combination of advocacy groups, businesses, and individual gun owners - filed suit in the Western District of New York and in the District of Connecticut against the governors of New York and Connecticut and other state officials, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for alleged infringement of their Second Amendment rights. Plaintiffs also claimed that numerous provisions of each statute were unconstitutionally vague. The Second Circuit held that the core provisions of the New York and Connecticut laws prohibiting possession of semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines did not violate the Second Amendment, and that none of the challenged provisions were void for vagueness, although it did reject New York's "load limit" and Connecticut's ban of one particular weapon.

Extended Summary: In January 2013, shortly after the mass murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, New York Legislature enacted the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (SAFE Act), which expanded the definition of prohibited "assault weapons" by defining, as a prohibited weapon, any semiautomatic firearm that contained at least one feature from an enumerated list of military features, such as a battle shroud. Under this definition, the weapon used by the Sandy Hook shooter would have been prohibited. The SAFE Act also made the possession, manufacture, transport, or disposal of an "assault weapon" a felony. Finally, the SAFE Act banned magazines with a capacity to hold more than ten rounds of ammunition and also prohibited possession of a magazine loaded with more than seven rounds of ammunition (a "load limit").

Similarly, in April 2013, Connecticut adopted, and in June 2013, amended "An Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety." Much like New York's SAFE Act, the Connecticut statute substituted the two-feature definition of prohibited "assault weapons" with a stricter one-feature test. It also made it a felony to transport, import, sell, or possess semiautomatic "assault weapons." Additionally, the Connecticut legislation banned 183 particular assault weapons listed by make and model, including "copies or duplicates" of most of the listed firearms. Magazines with a capacity to hold more than ten rounds of ammunition were also banned, but unlike in New York, there was no seven-round load limit rule in the Connecticut statute. Both the New York and Connecticut legislation contained grandfather clauses permitting pre-existing owners of assault weapons to continue to possess their firearms if properly registered with the state.

Plaintiffs - a combination of advocacy groups, businesses, and individual gun owners - filed suit in the Western District of New York and in the District of Connecticut against the governors of New York and Connecticut and other state officials, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for alleged infringement of their Second Amendment rights. Plaintiffs also claimed that numerous provisions of each statute were unconstitutionally vague. Both the United States District Court for the Western District of New York and the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut largely rejected their claims. On summary judgment, each court held that each state's legislation burdened plaintiffs' Second Amendment rights, that intermediate scrutiny should apply, and concluded that the laws' major provisions did not violate the Second Amendment. In the New York action, however, the district court did strike down limited aspects of the act, holding that the load limit did not pass intermediate scrutiny and that three specific provisions were unconstitutionally vague.

The Second Circuit largely affirmed. "The core prohibitions by New York and Connecticut of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines do not violate the Second Amendment," the court wrote. The court explained that both district courts had correctly evaluated the legislation under the constitutional standard of "intermediate scrutiny" - specifically, whether the statutes are "substantially related to the achievement of an important governmental interest" - and that here, the statutes passed intermediate scrutiny because they were substantially related to the important governmental interests of public safety and crime reduction, and because the record indicated that defendants tailored the legislation at issue to address these particularly dangerous weapons.

The Second Circuit further held, however, that neither New York's seven-round load limit nor Connecticut's ban on the Remington 7615 survived intermediate scrutiny. The Court found that because the seven-round load limit would not decrease the availability nor access of those who intend to use ten-round magazines for mass shootings or other crimes, the provision was "entirely untethered" from the governmental interest of reducing the amount of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines in circulation. The Remington 7615 ban did not survive intermediate scrutiny because Connecticut failed to set forth its rationale for banning the pump-action weapon, the single non-semiautomatic weapon on the list.

Finally, the Second Circuit held that no challenged provision in either statute was unconstitutionally vague. Generally, the court found that similar statutory language existed in both federal and New York statutes since 1994 and did not cause confusion at any time in the past two decades.

To read the full opinion, please visit: http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/de...d84df8c4dfee/3/hilite/

Panel: Circuit Judges Cabranes, Lohier, and Droney

Argument: 12/09/2014

Date of Issued Opinion: 10/19/2015

Docket Number: 14-36-cv(L); 14-319-cv

Decided: Affirmed in Part and Reversed in Part

Case Alert Author: Maria Ouzlian

Counsel: David Thompson, Charles J. Cooper, Peter A. Patterson, Cooper & Kirk, PLLC, Washington DC, and Brian T. Stapleton, Matthew S. Lerner, Goldberg Segalla LLP, White Plains, NY, Stephen P. Halbrook, Fairfax, VA, for Plaintiffs‐Appellants. Barbara D. Underwood, Solicitor General of the State of New York (Anisha S. Dasgupta, Claude S. Platton, Office of the Solicitor General, on the brief), for Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General for the State of New York, New York, NY, for Defendants‐Appellees‐Cross‐Appellants Andrew M. Cuomo, et al. Maura B. Murphy Osborne, Assistant Attorney General of the State of Connecticut (Perry Zinn Rowthorn, Michael K. Skold, Gregory T. D'Auria, Office of the Attorney General, on the brief), for George Jepsen, Attorney General of the State of Connecticut, Hartford, CT, for Defendants‐Appellees Dannel P. Malloy, et al.

Author of Opinion: Judge Cabranes

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Emily Gold Waldman

    Posted By: Emily Waldman @ 10/19/2015 07:27 PM     2nd Circuit  

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