A legal brief has been filed in U.S. District Court in New York asking for a summary judgment that would strike New York City’s $340 triennial fee for just owning a handgun.
The brief by the Second Amendment Foundation and its affiliate attorney, David Jensen, explains that under U.S. Supreme Court rulings, “the right to keep a handgun in the home for self-defense is a part of the ‘core’ of the Second Amendment’s protections.”
The move is just one among many battles SAF has taken up since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down dual victories – in the Heller and McDonald cases – for the rights organization.
SAF has sued other states and governments for other restrictions on gun ownership and possession.
In this case, brought by SAF, the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association and individuals including an electrical contractor, a paramedic, CPA and woodworker, the organization is seeking a summary judgment, arguing, “The city’s $340 fee is inherently prohibitive and serves the impermissible purpose of discouraging the exercise of constitutional rights. While the city can charge a nominal fee to defray costs, the $340 fee is not nominal, and has never been calculated to defray costs.”
The brief also argues that the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause must be considered, because state residents outside of New York City pay no more than $10 for a permit.
“There is no justification for protecting one class of citizens from substantial fees, while allowing their limitless imposition against another – and plainly, the approach is not the least restrictive one available. The apparent legislative purpose of discouraging lawful keeping and bearing of arms is constitutionally impermissible.”
The brief says the city’s fee appears to be intended to “discourage” people from exercising their constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
“The purpose of suppressing the exercise of a constitutional right is no legitimate purpose at all. New York City’s $340 fee is unconstitutionally excessive in its own right, and the New York state law that exempts city residents from protection against prohibitive fees violates the Equal Protection Clause,” the brief explains.
It reports there are about 37,000 people with handgun licenses in New York and 41,164 handguns, while the vast majority of the estimated 2 million weapons in the city are illegal.
“This lawsuit concerns only the rights of these law-abiding gun owners,” the brief explains.
It also argues the fees have no relationship to the real cost of running a licensing program.
“Incredibly, the license fees are not in fact used to defray administrative costs, but are instead deposited – in their entirely – to the police department’s pension fund. The city has used gun license fees for the (sole) purpose of enhancing the police pension fund,” the complaint asserts.
“A New York City resident who seeks to exercise his or her right to keep and bear arms by keeping a handgun at home must pay a total of $434.25 to obtain a license … indeed, the license fee itself exceeds the cost of many well-made handguns. A person who seeks to own a $300 handgun for 10 years is forced to pay the city of New York a total of $1,454.25 – that is, four times $340, plus $94.25 [fingerprinting costs] … which is almost five times the value of the gun itself.”
The Second Amendment Foundation, where spokesman Alan Gottlieb is the executive vice president, is the nation’s oldest and largest tax-exempt education, research, publishing and legal action group focusing on the constitutional right and heritage to privately own and possess firearms. Founded in 1974, the foundation has grown to more than 650,000 members and supporters and conducts many programs designed to better inform the public about the consequences of gun control.
Assisting in a number of the cases has been attorney Alan Gura, who was successful in his Supreme Court arguments in the McDonald case out of Chicago. In the landmark case, the court determined the Second Amendment applies to individuals, not just to state National Guard units or others in the U.S. military. The case struck down far-reaching gun bans.
Gura also argued and won the 2008 Heller case in the Supreme Court that eliminated the blanket ban on handguns in Washington, D.C.
The foundation already has brought to court a number of other cases over local restrictions that it believes are precluded by the Supreme Court’s rulings:
- The organization has sued New Jersey and its officials and judges over procedures that allowed them to refuse firearms permits for a kidnap victim, a man who carries large amounts of cash for his business and a civilian FBI employee who fears attacks from radical Islamists. The permissions were denied on the grounds people had not shown a “justifiable need.” “Law-abiding New Jersey citizens have been arbitrarily deprived of their ability to defend themselves and their families for years under the state’s horribly crafted laws,” said a SAF spokesman. “The law grants uncontrolled discretion to police chiefs and other public officials to deny license applications even in cases where the applicant has shown a clear and present danger exists.
- The SAF filed a case on behalf of an honorably discharged veteran from the Vietnam War and names as defendants Attorney General Eric Holder and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of Jefferson Wayne Schrader. The question is whether the state of Maryland can deprive an individual of the right to possess a weapon over a misdemeanor. Schrader had been convicted of misdemeanor assault relating to a fight involving a man who previously had assaulted him in Annapolis. But he was denied the opportunity to receive a shotgun as a gift or to purchase a handgun for personal protection.
- The organization sued the city of Chicago again, this time because it adopted a requirement that gun owners spend time at shooting ranges, then banned shooting ranges. Gottlieb said, “They have crafted this new ordinance to make it virtually impossible for prospective gun owners to meet all legal requirements unless they travel outside the city for mandatory training. The new ordinance prohibits public gun ranges inside the city yet the city demands that handgun owners get at least one hour of range training time.” The Second Amendment Foundation said the city’s regulations are depriving citizens of their rights.
- It filed a claim against Maryland for a man who alleges the state is violating the Second Amendment by refusing to renew his handgun permit. Raymond Woollard originally was issued a carry permit after a man broke into his home during a family event in 2002. Woollard’s permit was renewed in 2005 after the defendant in the case was released from prison. But state officials now have refused to renew the permit, even though the intruder now lives some three miles from Woollard.
- It sued Westchester County, N.Y., because officials there were requiring residents to have a “good cause” to ask for a handgun permit. The federal lawsuit alleges the requirement conflicts with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the Second Amendment establishes a personal right to “keep and bear arms.” Individual plaintiffs in the case are Alan Kachalsky and Christina Nikolov, both Westchester County residents whose permit applications were denied.
- The earliest case to result from the McDonald decision challenged a practice in North Carolina of banning guns during “emergencies.” The case claimed state statutes forbidding the carrying of firearms or ammunition when officials declare “states of emergency” are unconstitutional. Further, the plaintiffs said a state law allowing the government to prohibit the sale, purchase and possession of firearms and ammunition is unconstitutional. WND reported earlier this year when residents of King, N.C., were startled by the banishment of firearms during a “declared snow emergency.”
The high court’s 5-4 ruling in the first Chicago case was forecast to bring on such challenges.
It flipped “the burden onto the government and legislatures to show why they need to restrict what the court has already said is an individual right,” John Velleco, director of federal affairs for Gun Owners of America, told WND after the decision.
There is other action on the state level regarding gun rights. Already, eight states have adopted laws that exempt guns made, sold and kept inside the states from any federal gun regulations.
A court case already is being heard over the effort in Montana – the first state to take the step of ordering federal regulators to stay out of the state’s business of regulating its citizenry’s weapons.
In Wyoming, lawmakers even adopted a $2,000 penalty for federal agents trying to enforce federal regulations against an exempted weapon.