A few months ago, in a series of posts right after the Supreme Court’s big Second Amendment decision Bruen (basics here), I suggested that a number of broad federal criminal firearm prohibitions might be subject to new constitutional challenges (see posts here are here). I focused on how the Bruen court’s recasting of Second Amendment analysis might impact the federal felon-in-possession statute, 18 USC § 922(g)(1) and the federal drug-user-in-possession statute, 18 USC § 922(g)(3). Interestingly, as detailed in prior posts here and here, a few district courts have already declared other parts of § 922 unconstitutional. And this past week a new opinion adds § 922(g)(8) to the post-Bruen carnage.
Title 18 USC § 922(g)(8) makes it a federal crime for any person to possess a firearm while subject to a domstic violence restraining order. In his opinion in US v. Perez-Gallan, No. PE:22-CR-00427-DC (SD Texas Nov. 10, 2022) (available here), US District Judge David Counts works through Bruen analysis to conclude “that § 922(g)(8) is unconstitutional under Bruen‘s framework.” The opinion is 30+ pages long, and it starts and ends this way:
Before Bruen, the Second Amendment looked like an abandoned cabin in the woods. A knot of vines, weeds, and roots, left unkempt for decades, crawling up the cabin’s sides as if pulling it under the earth. Firearm regulations are that overgrowth. Starting with the Federal Firearms Act in 1938, laws were passed with little — if any — consideration given to their constitutionality. That is, until the Supreme Court intervened in Bruen.
No longer can lower courts account for public policy interests, historical analysis being the only tool. But after growing unchecked for almost 100 years, today’s tangle of gun laws has left lower courts with a gordian knot. And after engaging with this Nation’s tradition of firearm regulations several times already, the Court’s unanswered question is whether Bruen demands lower courts manicure the Second Amendment’s landscape by scalpel or chainsaw….
How strictly or flexibly a court reads Bruen impacts its conclusion. Bruen’s mandate is that a gun regulation’s constitutionality hinge solely on the historical inquiry. According to Bruen, that can be this Court’s only consideration. The Court concedes, therefore, that a court reading Bruen strictly could have arguably stopped after Section IV of this Opinion.
That said, this Court embraces Bruen’s charge. Thus, after sifting through the history above, this Court finds that the Government did not prove that § 922(g)(8) aligns with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation and declines the Government’s invitation to insert its own public policy concerns rather than following Bruen. As a result, the Court holds that § 922(g)(8) is unconstitutional under Bruen’s framework.
Some prior recent related posts: