A federal appeals court last week sent a case challenging California’s ban on long gun sales to people under 21 back to a district court, instead of immediately enforcing the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision saying gun regulations must be based on historical traditions to be constitutional.
Critics say the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and several “blue resistance” states have been dragging their heels in complying with the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on June 23 in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen. The decision recognized a constitutional right to bear firearms in public for self-defense and struck down New York’s law that required an applicant to demonstrate “proper cause” to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun in public.
The ruling also found that gun restrictions must be deeply rooted in American history if they are to survive constitutional scrutiny.
“America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army,” wrote Judge Ryan Nelson, a Trump appointee. “Today, we reaffirm that our Constitution still protects the right that enabled their sacrifice: the right of young adults to keep and bear arms.
“The Second Amendment protects the right of young adults to keep and bear arms, which includes the right to purchase them.”
In a concurring opinion, Judge Kenneth Kiyul Lee, also a Trump appointee, wrote that “California’s legal position has no logical stopping point and would ultimately erode fundamental rights enumerated in our Constitution.”
Although the decision of the panel—which previously ruled against the law—to return the case to the district court could be an example of judicial meticulousness, it gives California another opportunity to justify its age-specific ban on long gun possession that's now on an even weaker constitutional footing in light of the Bruen opinion.
Attorneys for the state argued the history standard enunciated in Bruen “dramatically changed the ground rules” for gun law litigation, so the case needed to return to the district court to examine new evidence, including historical records, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The state argues the Bruen ruling was narrow and that the ban on sales of long guns to young adults was still constitutional.
The office of California Attorney General Rob Bonta, a Democrat, told the newspaper it was eager to defend the law “to protect the public safety of Californians and so that they can safely live, work, and congregate without fear of becoming a victim of gun violence.”
Bonta is known for his opposition to Second Amendment rights.
Four of the judges dissented from the remand ruling.
Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, a Reagan appointee who authored the dissenting opinion, wrote that the majority was failing “to resolve the straightforward legal issues presented by this case.”
“After Bruen, the question before us is simple. Nevertheless, our Court today declines to answer it. In refusing to do so, our Court delays the resolution of this case, wastes judicial resources, and fails to provide guidance to the lower court of our Circuit. As a judge of this Court, I feel obliged to offer such guidance, even if a majority of my colleagues does not,” O’Scannlain wrote.
“We are bound, now, by Bruen, so there is no good reason why we could not issue a narrow, unanimous opinion in this case.
“The traditional justifications for remand are absent here. The issue before us is purely legal, and not one that requires further factual development.”
Young’s attorney, Alan Alexander Beck of San Diego, told the Los Angeles Times that he agreed with O’Scannlain.
“This case has been in litigation for 10 years, and, in light of the fact that this is a pure issue of law, there’s actually no need for the 9th Circuit to remand the issue,” Beck said.
“They should have issued a ruling on the merits.”