clearn.png
Thursday January 23rd, 2020 12:01AM

Gun-control backers concerned about changing federal courts

By The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, including a ban on the type of high-capacity ammunition magazines used in some of the nation's deadliest mass shootings.

How long those types of laws will stand is a growing concern among gun control advocates in California and elsewhere.

A federal judiciary that is becoming increasingly conservative under President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate has gun control advocates on edge. They worry that federal courts, especially if Trump wins a second term next year and Republicans hold the Senate, will take such an expansive view of Second Amendment rights that they might overturn strict gun control laws enacted in Democratic-leaning states.

The U.S. Supreme Court so far has left plenty of room for states to enact their own gun legislation, said Adam Winkler, a gun policy expert at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. But he said the success of the Trump administration in appointing federal judges, including to the high court, could alter that.

"Those judges are likely to be hostile to gun-control measures," Winkler said. "So I think the courts overall have made a shift to the right on guns. We'll just have to see how that plays out."

The legal tug-of-war already is playing out in California.

The state banned the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines nearly two decades ago as one of its numerous responses to deadly mass shootings; a voter initiative passed three years ago expanded on that, banning all ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds even among gun owners who already possessed them.

Earlier this year, a Republican-appointed federal judge overturned the ban, triggering a weeklong bullet buying spree among California gun owners before he put his decision on hold pending appeal. The same judge is overseeing another lawsuit brought by gun-rights groups that seeks to repeal a state law requiring background checks for ammunition buyers.

Legal experts, lawmakers and advocates on both sides said the decision in the case over ammunition limits foreshadows more conflicts between Democratic-leaning states seeking to impose tighter gun laws and an increasingly conservative federal judiciary.

"What you're looking at in the Southern District of California is happening all over the country," said Frank Zimring, a University of California, Berkeley law professor who is an expert on gun laws.

Trump has the opportunity to fill a higher percentage of federal court vacancies than any president at this point in his first term since George H.W. Bush nearly three decades ago.

To date, he has nominated 194 candidates for federal judgeships and has had 146 confirmed, out of 860 total federal district court judicial seats, according to the conservative Heritage Foundation. Of 179 seats on the federal appellate courts, Trump has nominated 46 judges and had 43 confirmed. He is poised to fill 105 vacancies in the district courts and four in the appeals courts, according to the Heritage Foundation.

The changes to the federal judiciary could mean that even gun restrictions that were previously upheld by appointees of former Republican presidents may now be in jeopardy, said Hannah Shearer, litigation director at the San Francisco-based Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

"I think the judiciary is headed into a more extreme place on gun control issues because of President Trump's appointees," she said.

Even when gun and ammunition limits are upheld, those cases eventually could make their way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Trump may already have tipped the balance.

The court is currently poised to take up its first Second Amendment case in about a decade. It's a challenge to a law New York City passed that prohibited people who have home handgun licenses from taking their guns outside the city for target practice or to a second home.

The city has told the court the case should be dropped, however, because it has relaxed its law.

Among other cases working their way through the courts are challenges to a California ban on certain handguns, other states' longstanding restrictions on carrying concealed weapons and limitations on interstate handgun sales.

Yet forecasting how the Supreme Court might act, or even whether it will take certain cases, is fraught with uncertainty. The court has steered clear of gun-rights cases since establishing an individual right to possess guns in 2008 2010, and has let stand a number of state gun restrictions.

Still, gun-rights supporters are excited by the changes brought by Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate. The upcoming Supreme Court session "could be a real game-changer" with Trump's appointments of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, said Chuck Michel, an attorney who represents both the National Rifle Association and the affiliated California Rifle & Pistol Association.

"To the extent that the composition of the court has changed and that it will give the Second Amendment back its teeth, it's very important," Michel said. "It looks like there's enough votes on the court right now to reset the standard."

His clients are challenging California's ammunition background check and extended magazine ban before U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez, an appointee of former President George W. Bush.

Other states that limit ammunition magazines in some way, typically between 10 and 20 rounds, are Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Vermont, according to the Giffords Law Center.

Democrats said the prospect of four more years of Trump judicial appointments is helping energize their opposition to his re-election.

"This would be one of the lasting legacies of Donald Trump," said former California state Senate leader Kevin de Leon, a Democrat from Los Angeles who carried or supported many of the state's firearms restrictions, including limits on military-style assault weapons. "When Trump is gone, they will be there for lifetime appointments."

Democratic lawmakers said they will continue pushing more firearms restrictions even as some fear they could be thwarted in the federal courts.

State Sen. Anthony Portantino, a Democrat from Southern California, acknowledges the potential for state gun restrictions to be overturned by federal judges, but said the stakes are too high to back down.

He noted that the gunman who recently killed three people and himself in Gilroy, at an annual garlic festival, was 19 and legally bought his assault-style rifle in Nevada before illegally bringing it into California. The gunman also carried a 75-round drum magazine and multiple 40-round magazines, all banned under California law.

"That he could smuggle that across state lines and kill a 6-year-old, to me that's an example of why we need federal action and why California should continue to lead and tell our story," Portantino said.

He is proposing a ban on anyone buying more than one gun a month and prohibiting almost all gun sales to people under age 21.

___

Associated Press writer Curt Anderson in Miami contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Online Supreme Court News, AP Elections, General Election News, General Presidential Election News
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Source: Jeffrey Epstein taken off suicide watch before death
Officials say financier Jeffrey Epstein has died by suicide while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges in New York
3:15PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Amid protest, Hawaii astronomers lose observation time
Astronomers across 11 observatories on Hawaii's tallest mountain have cancelled more than 2,000 hours of telescope viewing over the past four weeks because a protest blocked a road to the summit
2:30PM ( 1 hour ago )
Epstein: How he died and what it means for his accusers
Financier Jeffrey Epstein killed himself while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges in New York
2:09PM ( 1 hour ago )
U.S. News
Trump-McConnell 2020? Senate head sets himself up as wingman
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who's running for reelection, is tying himself as tightly as he can to President Donald Trump
3:03PM ( 28 minutes ago )
Lane Johnson, Dallas Goedert join Eagles growing injury list
Eagles backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld back at practice wearing an arm sling a day after surgery to repair broken left wrist
2:49PM ( 41 minutes ago )
India to bring supplies to Kashmir; Pakistan to go to UN
Authorities enforcing a strict curfew in Indian-administered Kashmir will bring in trucks of essential supplies for an Islamic festival next week, as the divided region remains in lockdown
2:43PM ( 47 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Biden is still the Democrat to beat, but rivals see weakness
Three months after announcing his White House bid, Joe Biden remains atop early polling
12:02PM ( 3 hours ago )
Hong Kong residents demand release of arrested woman
Hong Kong police fire tear gas at protesters after two marches go ahead in defiance of official ban
11:56AM ( 3 hours ago )
Biden is the Democrat to beat; rivals see signs of weakness
Three months after announcing his White House bid, Joe Biden remains atop early polling
10:17AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Oil unease: Alaska faces tough budget decisions
Alaska political leaders are debating the check residents receive from the state's oil-wealth fund as they grapple with an ongoing budget problem tied to persistent low-to-middling oil prices
6:24PM ( 21 hours ago )
Twitter reposts McConnell threat video after appeal
Twitter has reposted a video from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's campaign that showed protesters yelling threats in front of his Kentucky home
5:55PM ( 21 hours ago )
Trump says he wants background checks, also reassures NRA
President Donald Trump says leaders in the House and Senate are having "serious discussions" about background checks for buying guns and that he's been talking to the powerful National Rifle Association
3:31PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Online Congress News
Puerto Rico, with 3 governors in a week, considers a 4th
A day after Puerto Rico got its third governor in less than a week, top officials from new leader Wanda Vázquez's own party are talking openly about their desire to see a fourth
7:43PM ( 1 day ago )
Puerto Rico braces for more protests against latest governor
Puerto Ricans are bracing for more political turmoil as the third governor in a week takes charge of the U.S. territory still divided over who should lead the economically struggling island of 3.2 million people
11:12AM ( 2 days ago )
Puerto Ricans get their 3rd governor in 6 days
Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez has been sworn in as the island's new governor, culminating weeks of political turmoil
10:41PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Online Supreme Court News
The Latest: Iowa gets its 1st look at billionaire Steyer
Environmental activist and new presidential candidate Tom Steyer is launching his first pitch to Iowa voters by embracing his status as a billionaire
8:02PM ( 19 hours ago )
The Latest: Hickenlooper suggests senators can't beat Trump
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says the country is "embarrassed and ashamed" by President Donald Trump's "incoherent behavior"
7:55PM ( 19 hours ago )
The Latest: Klobuchar says Trump afraid of woman president
Democratic presidential hopefuls have begun speaking at the "Wing Ding" party fundraiser in northern Iowa, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar of neighboring Minnesota kicking things off
7:27PM ( 20 hours ago )
AP Elections
Biden, Bullock take on Trump, guns at Iowa State Fair
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock have opened the Iowa State Fair's 2020 presidential blitz by blistering President Donald Trump
1:04AM ( 1 day ago )
Pressure mounts on Hickenlooper, but Senate is no sure bet
Pressure is mounting on former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to trade in his faltering presidential bid for a U.S. Senate run in his home state
10:34PM ( 1 day ago )
Biden, Bullock kick off Iowa State Fair blitz talking guns
The Iowa State Fair presidential blitz is under way, with former Vice President Joe Biden and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock blistering President Donald Trump
9:30PM ( 1 day ago )
General Election News
O'Rourke crosses into Mexico for funeral of shooting victim
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke has crossed the border into Mexico for the funeral of one of the 22 people killed in a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas
5:52PM ( 1 day ago )
Biden: Trump 'fanning the flames of white supremacy'
Biden accuses Trump of "fanning the flames of white supremacy" and offering "no moral leadership"
12:23AM ( 2 days ago )
Hannity to de Blasio: 'You drive me crazy!'
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio sparred, clashed and laughed with Fox News host Sean Hannity
11:46PM ( 2 days ago )
General Presidential Election News
Source: Jeffrey Epstein taken off suicide watch before death
Officials say financier Jeffrey Epstein has died by suicide while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges in New York
3:15PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Amid protest, Hawaii astronomers lose observation time
Astronomers across 11 observatories on Hawaii's tallest mountain have cancelled more than 2,000 hours of telescope viewing over the past four weeks because a protest blocked a road to the summit
2:30PM ( 1 hour ago )
Epstein: How he died and what it means for his accusers
Financier Jeffrey Epstein killed himself while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges in New York
2:09PM ( 1 hour ago )
Officials: Jeffrey Epstein dies by suicide in jail cell
Officials say financier Jeffrey Epstein has died by suicide while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges in New York
12:12PM ( 3 hours ago )
California 'First Partner' puts focus on gender equality
Jennifer Siebel Newsom sees her role as wife and political partner of California Gov. Gavin Newsom as an opportunity to promote policies focused on women and families
12:01PM ( 3 hours ago )