08 April 2010

Heller’s Offspring

WSJ-A Look at the New Generation of Gun-Control Suits

These are the offspring of Heller:

A woman contends her small stature makes her an appealing target for criminals but says she was turned down for a concealed-carry handgun permit by the Sacramento County sheriff.

A Californian man, born without an arm below the right elbow, argues that the state’s roster of “approved” handguns precludes him from being able to buy a left-handed Glock.

An American man who now lives in Canada would like to purchase guns in the U.S. to store at his relatives’ home in Mount Vernon, Ohio, to use for sporting and self-defense.

All are now plaintiffs in suits that were filed in the wake of the June 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller ruling. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms at home, but left the door open to certain types of gun restrictions, many of which are currently being challenged.

The Second Amendment Foundation, a Bellevue, Wash., nonprofit, that took in $3.6 million in revenue in 2008, is paying for their legal challenges. Their cases are being handled by its attorney, Alan Gura, who won the Heller case.

Never mind that the landmark Heller ruling hasn’t led to massive gun-toting in D.C., where the city council so far has managed to maintain certain gun restrictions that it hopes avoid constitutional problems. Effectively, “the D.C. city council has kept its handgun ban and said ‘heck with you’” to the Supreme Court, said Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association. The NRA financed its own (unsuccessful) challenge to the new restrictions. Click here for that ruling, which came down late last week. The NRA says it will appeal.

But the Heller ruling did spawn a bunch of litigation, including, of course, McDonald v. Chicago, a constitutional challenge to the Chicago handgun ban, for which the Supreme Court heard oral arguments earlier this month. The Second Amendment Foundation is now working on record 19 gun cases—a huge jump from its prior caseload of one or two lawsuits a year, according to founder Alan M. Gottlieb.

Among them is the case of Tom G. Palmer, a gay man who once used a handgun to avoid gay-bashing. One of the original plaintiffs in Heller, Palmer is suing Washington, D.C., arguing that the city’s ban on carrying handguns in public is invalid under Heller.

“What we are saying is you can’t ban open-carry and concealed carry and leave people no option at all” for carrying guns, Gottlieb said.

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