Acting largely under the radar amid a flurry of proposals that would curb constitutional rights, an advocacy organization for the Second Amendment has been taking down gun restrictions one at a time.
The latest success by the Second Amendment Foundation has been to obtain a preliminary injunction against part of a concealed carry law in New Mexico that, according to a lawsuit, violates the right of equal protection under the law.
The organization, which was integral in the cases that established that the Second Amendment applies to states and individuals, previously launched actions against gun restrictions in New Jersey, Maryland, New York and several other states.
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Now the Washington state-based group confirms victory in a request for a preliminary injunction against the New Mexico standard.
The injunction was handed down just days ago by District Judge M. Christina Armijo, who took action in the case of John Jackson, a permanent legal resident alien who could not obtain a concealed carry permit in the state.
"We're delighted with the outcome of this challenge," said SAF Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb. "The right of self-protection should not be denied to people who are active and productive members of the community simply because they do not meet the citizenship requirement of a state statute."
In reaching its ruling, the court applied a heightened standard of scrutiny and concluded that the citizenship provision of New Mexico's law is severable from the remainder of the state Concealed Handgun Carry Act.
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"While the law allowed Mr. Jackson to openly carry a firearm," Gottlieb noted, "there are certain areas and circumstances when doing so would be imprudent or potentially in violation of other legal restrictions. This ruling will make it possible for Mr. Jackson and other legal resident aliens to exercise their right to bear arms."
The organization also announced it has filed a motion for injunctive relief in a related case in Nebraska.
There, non-citizens legally living in the state are prohibited from obtaining a concealed carry permit.
SAF went to court on behalf of Carlos Nino De Rivera Lajous, 68, a Mexican citizen who has been legally in Lincoln since 1990.
"Mr. Lajous received a permanent resident visa in 1991, and he has earned three associate degrees from Central Community College in Hastings," noted Gottlieb. "He has certainly established himself as a productive member of his community over the past 22 years.
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"Ironically," Gottlieb continued, "Mr. Lajous is allowed to carry a firearm openly in Nebraska, except for certain locations where doing so is not allowed under state law. He is prohibited from obtaining a concealed carry permit by state statute, thus making open carry his only option for personal protection, and as a result, he is the victim of what might be called a 'Catch 22' in state law.
"There is no rationale for a system in which someone can legally carry openly for self-defense, but yet that person cannot obtain a concealed pistol permit because of nationality," he said. "SAF has challenged similar problems in Washington, New Mexico and Iowa where non-citizen legal residents faced troublesome local gun laws, and when Mr. Lajous' Nebraska problem came to our attention."
The organization previously issued a challenge to politicians and celebrities pressing for gun control to live without their armed protection.
"That would include Joe Biden's shotguns," said Gottlieb, "and the armed security now enjoyed by Sens. Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi."
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He said such prominent opponents of gun ownership should begin the process and "lead by example" through repudiation of any of their own firearms as well as the "armed security" they now have.
"It seems clear from the direction the administration is going that it wants to severely restrict the rights of law-abiding gun owners to purchase the firearms of their choice," Gottlieb said, "and we think they should demonstrate their belief in their own programs by giving up their firearms and security first."
The issue is at the forefront now because anti-gun politicians including President Obama are trying to capitalize on the horror of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six adults dead.
The alleged gunman shot and killed himself, so many questions about the attack might never be answered.
Nevertheless, Obama has appointed Vice President Joe Biden to head up a task force and make recommendations on more gun control.
But Obama should be a leader in another area, Gottlieb said, that of relinquishing firearms and protection from firearms.
"It would especially apply to President Obama," he said, "who just signed legislation giving himself Secret Service protection for life, at the expense of taxpayers he wants to disarm."
He said the same standard is appropriate for "anti-gun celebrities who have bodyguards while supporting legislation that would deprive average citizens from owning firearms for personal protection."
There is good that comes from Americans' access to weaponry, he pointed out.
"For example," he noted, "when I appeared with CNN's Piers Morgan recently, he asserted that nobody needs an AR-15. The other day near Houston, a Texas teenager used an AR-15 to defend himself and his 12-year-old sister from a home invasion by shooting two burglars. Piers can choke on that."
Gottlieb believes that public figures don't have a right to advocate for gun bans for private citizens unless they first voluntarily give up their personal security.
"These anti-gun politicians were not elected to positions of royalty," Gottlieb said. "They are citizens, with no more rights than any other citizen. They were elected to serve the public, not treat the public like serfs. If they want us to put our safety at risk, they should drop the pretense and give up their guns and guards before daring to suggest that anyone else do the same."
The Second Amendment Foundation 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.
It fought and won the landmark McDonald v. Chicago Supreme Court Case that applied Second Amendment rights to individuals in states all across the nation.
It took a look at New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan called Mayors Against Illegal Guns that is to enhance gun restrictions on citizens city by city.
SAF officials said perhaps he should be focusing on the mayors themselves, not the residents of their cities.
"Michael Bloomberg created this group to further his personal agenda of public disarmament," Gottlieb said at the time. "But within the ranks of his organization, our research has found several politicians who have been convicted of various serious crimes, thus making it impossible for them to finish their terms.
"We discovered," he said, "one mayor convicted of perjury and embezzlement, another who was convicted of attempted child molestation, and yet another who was convicted of assault and racketeering. There was one who was convicted on bribery, fraud and money laundering, and another who was convicted of domestic violence.
"In short," Gottlieb said, "many of these elitist politicians can no longer own firearms. The crimes they were convicted of suggest they are public enemies rather than public servants. No wonder they want to take guns from law-abiding citizens!
"Perhaps Bloomberg should worry about background checks on his colleagues, rather than law-abiding gun owners," he suggested.
The group boasts that it has grown to more than 725 mayors in 40 states. But SAF is publicizing mayors who have run into their own troubles.
It is launching its campaign in newspapers, magazines and on the Internet, revealing the criminal and ethical wrongdoings of many of the mayors themselves.
Gottlieb reported the research conducted by the foundation found "a far higher rate of criminal activity within the ranks of the MAIG than among the ranks of more than eight million citizens who are licensed to carry concealed firearms in 49 states."
Another recent battle for the SAF was in Alameda County, Calif., which changed the rules as three businessmen were trying to open a gun shop. The foundation successfully sued the county for allegedly violating the constitutional rights of three businessmen by wrongfully denying them permits to open a gun shop.
The foundation also recently argued a pair of California cities and the state's Department of Justice improperly confiscated firearms during investigations and then refused to return them to their owners – even after the subjects of the inquiries were cleared.
Other cases the SAF has handled in recent months:
- SAF sued the state of California over a "vague" gun ban over a case in which a man twice was jailed and then cleared. The focal point is the definition of an "assault weapon." The statute's definition of weapons is so "vague and ambiguous," the group contends, that one man was arrested on two different occasions for violations but ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing. "It's an insult to be arrested once for violating a law that is so vague and ambiguous that law enforcement officers cannot tell the difference between what is and what is not a legal firearm under this statute," said Gottlieb, "but to be arrested and jailed twice for the same offense is an outrage."
- In New York, the organization has asked for a summary judgment that would strike New York City's $340 triennial fee for just owning a handgun. The legal brief 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 case, brought by SAF, the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association and individuals including an electrical contractor, a paramedic, CPA and woodworker, argues, "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 organization has sued New Jersey and 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 an 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.
- SAF filed a claim against Maryland for a man who alleged the state was 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 later refused to renew the permit, even though the intruder now lives some three miles from Woollard.
- SAF sued Westchester County, N.Y., because officials there were requiring that residents 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.