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Dangerous and Unusual Weapons

Bruen & The Myth of Continuity in American Gun Culture

Posted by on September 18, 2023

This guest post does not necessarily represent the views of the Duke Center for Firearms Law. Opponents of firearm regulation, energized by the landmark Bruen decision, have been paying closer attention to early America. They like what they don’t see. The ruling makes historical evidence—or, more to the point, the absence of historical evidence—dispositive in […]

The Confused Ninth Circuit Decision Striking Down Hawaii’s Butterfly Knife Ban

Posted by on August 21, 2023

In Teter v. Lopez, a Ninth Circuit panel struck down Hawaii’s ban on butterfly knives in an opinion that is hard to understand. The underlying result was presaged in the oral arguments, as this prior post suggests, but the final opinion is still confounding to me. It would not be surprising to see this case […]

In Search of Repeating Firearms in Eighteenth-Century America

Posted by on July 26, 2023

[This is a guest post that is part of a mini-series on the history of firearms and gun regulation in early America.] Over the past ten years, opponents of regulating assault rifles have argued that repeating firearms — some capable of firing 10 shots or more — were well-known and possibly common in eighteenth-century America. Using […]

Court Battles Over Assault Weapon Bans—And A New California Ruling

Posted by on May 30, 2023

Restrictions on select kinds of semi-automatic firearms (often labeled assault weapons) are back in the news after the Supreme Court last week declined to halt Illinois’s new law. The request to the Court came on the justices’ so-called shadow docket, where the challengers were seeking emergency relief before the Seventh Circuit had even considered the […]

Litigation Highlight: Federal Judge Upholds D.C. Law Banning Large-Capacity Magazines

Posted by on May 12, 2023

On April 20, a federal judge in the District of Columbia denied a motion for a preliminary injunction of a Washington, D.C. law banning the possession, sale, and transfer of magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition in Hanson v. D.C.  The decision continues a trend of federal courts upholding large-capacity magazine, […]

Litigation Highlight: Ninth Circuit Hears Oral Argument in Challenge to Hawaii’s Butterfly Knife Ban

Posted by on March 3, 2023

First principles of federalism suggest that state-to-state variety is a feature, not a bug, of the American system. Each state can generally determine for itself how to exercise its police power and provide for public safety. However, recent litigation following the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision suggests that differentiation among state weapons regulations may raise constitutional […]

Federal Judge Rejects Challenge to California’s “Ghost Gun” Regulations

Posted by on October 28, 2022

After a hearing on October 24, a federal judge in the Central District of California issued an order denying a motion for preliminary injunction of two California statutes that regulate self-manufactured firearms, or ghost guns.  The judge’s order adopted the legal analysis in an 11-page tentative ruling issued on October 21. The case, Defense Distributed […]

Public Nuisance Liability and the Irrelevance of the Second Amendment

Posted by on April 12, 2022

1. Introduction In 2005, the U.S. Congress bestowed on gun makers and sellers broad immunity from civil lawsuits by enacting the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). Congress explicitly based this immunity on the need to protect Second Amendment rights, pitting defenders of those rights against victims of criminal gun violence seeking to […]

Commonality Redux

Posted by on February 25, 2022

Many Second Amendment questions remained open after Heller. The Court clarified that the right to keep and bear arms guarantees a private, individual right to have a handgun at home for purposes like self-defense, but it left open a host of questions about where people can take their weapons, what weapons can be restricted, and […]

Bump Stocks Remain a Hot Topic in the Federal Courts

Posted by on December 15, 2021

A three judge panel of the Fifth Circuit upheld the federal bump stock ban yesterday. In a post last Wednesday, I noted how the Sixth Circuit en banc had split evenly on the legality of the bump stock ban, leaving in place the trial court’s decision upholding the regulation. The question doesn’t appear to be […]

Bump Stock Ban Heading for the Supreme Court (Again)

Posted by on December 8, 2021

As I mentioned earlier this week, the en banc Sixth Circuit failed to reach consensus on the legality of the Trump Administration’s ban on bump stock devices, which convert semi-automatic firearms into weapons that can approximate the rate of fire of an automatic firearm. (If you’re unfamiliar with the operation of bump stocks, I’ve found […]

En Banc Ninth Circuit Upholds California’s Large-Capacity Magazine Ban

Posted by on December 1, 2021

In a major decision issued yesterday, the en banc Ninth Circuit upheld California’s ban on large-capacity magazines. By a 7-4 vote in Duncan v. Bonta, the court ruled that intermediate scrutiny applied to California’s law and that the provision was a reasonable fit with the government’s goal of preventing gun violence. I’ve previously written about […]

Observations Regarding the Interpretation and Legacy of the Statute of Northampton in Anglo-American Legal History

Posted by on September 17, 2021

The Statute of Northampton of 1328 remains central to the current debate surrounding the limits and protections the Second Amendment provides to carry arms in public.[1] The Statute provided that “no man great nor small, of what condition soever he be, except the king’s servants in his presence…come before the King’s justices, or other of […]

The Continuing Relevance of the Saturday Night Special

Posted by on August 2, 2021

Mister Saturday Night Special / Got a barrel that’s blue and cold / It ain’t good for nothing but puttin’ men six feet in a hole “Saturday Night Special,” Lynard Skynyrd, 1975 Today, reference to a “Saturday Night Special” is rarely heard outside of old films or perhaps among vintage firearms enthusiasts. Rather than a […]

On Cedar Point Nursery and Firearm Regulations

Posted by on July 23, 2021

On June 22, the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in Duncan v. Bonta. The bulk of the arguments regarded the challengers’ claim that California’s large capacity magazine (LCM) ban violates their second amendment rights. Judge Paul Watford, however, focused on their takings claim, training all six of his questions to both sides on the subject. […]

“Nomological Desperation”: What’s Common in Second and Eighth Amendment Doctrines?

Posted by on June 23, 2021

As interpreted by the Supreme Court in Heller, the Second Amendment protects arms that are in common use by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes. Yesterday, an en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in Duncan v. Bonta, a Second Amendment challenge to California’s ban on ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 […]

Further Thoughts on Miller v. Bonta and “Assault Weapons”

Posted by on June 16, 2021

Today I’m highlighting further thoughts on Miller v. Bonta, the California federal court decision striking down the state’s assault weapons ban, which I’ve written on several times already last week–here and here. This time, the analysis comes from my Duke Law colleague Charles J. Dunlap Jr., the former deputy judge advocate general of the United States […]

Part II: Breaking the Assault Weapon Opinion Down Further

Posted by on June 9, 2021

In yesterday’s post, I unpacked the court’s decision in Miller v. Bonta, striking down California’s assault weapons ban. In today’s post, I look at the case with a more critical eye. I first focus on matters of doctrine and then turn to style. As a doctrinal matter, I see three important aspects to the case: […]

Miller v. Bonta and California’s Assault Weapons Ban

Posted by on June 8, 2021

Last week, in Miller v. Bonta, Judge Roger T. Benitez of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, struck down California’s assault weapons ban as unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. In today’s post, I’ll describe the doctrinal and theoretical moves the opinion makes, and tomorrow’s post will provide further analysis and […]

Scholarship Highlight: New Student Notes on Guns

Posted by on April 23, 2021

A few new student notes about firearms law have been published recently or will be soon. Once again, it’s great to see the field growing! Danny Li, The First Amendment Weaponized: When Guns Become Public Discourse, William & Mary Bill of Rights. J. (forthcoming) Here’s the Abstract: This Article discusses First Amendment challenges asserted against […]

Litigation Highlight: Vermont Supreme Court Upholds Magazine Limit

Posted by on February 26, 2021

Earlier this week, in Vermont v. Misch, the Vermont Supreme Court rejected a state constitutional law challenge to the statutory prohibition on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition for long guns and 15 rounds for handguns. Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit voted to grant rehearing en banc in a Second Amendment challenge to […]

The Biden Administration Gun Plan

Posted by on December 2, 2020

On his campaign website, President-Elect Joe Biden lists several of his administration’s priorities for firearm regulation. Since the actual policy proposals are not spelled out in depth, it is hard to evaluate the precise details of his plan. And, of course, the ones that require congressional action are much less likely to pass if the […]

Reflections on the Ninth Circuit’s LCM Decision

Posted by on August 26, 2020

Yesterday, I wrote about the Ninth’s Circuit’s decision in Duncan v. Becerra, striking down CA’s ban on large-capacity magazines (LCMs). Today I offer a few observations from my reading of the case. First, I think the bulk of the majority’s analysis at step one of the two-part step is helpful and mostly accurate. It’s useful […]

The Ninth Circuit Strikes Down California’s Ban on Large-Capacity Magazines

Posted by on August 25, 2020

Last year a federal district court in California became the first federal court to conclude that a ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds violates the Second Amendment. A few weeks ago, in Duncan v. Becerra, a panel of the Ninth Circuit became the first federal appellate court to do so. Before this decision, […]

Unbannable Arms?

Posted by on November 15, 2019

When it comes to the “Arms” protected by the Second Amendment, the conceptual space is typically divided into two categories. Some weapons, like those that are “dangerous and unusual,” can be banned without raising any constitutional problems. For those that are not dangerous and unusual, the government has to satisfy some requisite level of scrutiny. […]