Pennsylvania AG effectively bans “ghost guns”, Puerto Rico takes first step to recognizing gun rights, Cuomo wants stricter arms licensing, St. Louis bans carrying in parks, Reply brief at Supreme Court in Bump Stock Case, Injunction sought in “prohibited person” lawsuit.

Matthew Larosiere is the Director of Legal Policy at Firearms Policy Coalition. You can connect with him on Twitter @MattLaAtLaw.


Pennsylvania AG effectively bans “ghost guns”

This week Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro earned the praise of gun controllers nationwide when he had the “courage” to cast aside the nondelegation doctrine and unilaterally declare “80%” receivers as “firearms” under Pennsylvania law. 

Shapiro announced on facebook live his opinion that “80%” receivers are “firearms” under PA law, accompanied by a promotional video showcasing the construction of a Polymer80 glock, complete with edgy music. Shapiro did this because of course he did, it’s the end of 2019 and a proud social media showcase of a violation of our natural rights is precisely what we have earned as a society.

Long story short, Shapiro issued a legal opinion directing the Pennsylvania state police (PSP) to treat incomplete receivers as “firearms.” The state definition includes weapons which are “designed to or may readily be converted to expel any projectile by the action of an explosive; or the frame or receiver of any such weapon.” This is pretty noncontroversial language, and the “readily converted” language was originally targeted at “starting pistols” designed to fire blanks to start races, but could be converted into a firearm by driving out a plug.

Shapiro saw that language as his way to “do something.” The opinion is a quite circular and frankly embarrassing piece of lawyering. He imports from federal law an interpretation of “may readily be restored,” from the NFA’s definition of “machinegun,” to justify his interpretation that a block of plastic or aluminum is actually “designed” or “readily converted” to operate as a firearm. PA firearms attorney Josh Prince called the move out for what it was: unlawful.

PA has specific laws on the transfer of any firearm that isn’t a long rifle, and if every 80% receiver, polymer80 kit, shovel, and hunk of aluminum now must be transferred through a state licensed dealer, and have a serial number, it means PA needs to come up with a mechanism to do so. So, in effect, these items are more or less banned and cannot be transferred until the state comes up with some mechanism of doing so.

Needless to say, it looks like the market for PA’s build kits just took a hit. Also needless to say, Shapiro should expect to hear from a certain group of aggressive civil rights advocates. FPC has already filed an emergency injunction to prevent this ludicrous display from harming any appalachians.


Puerto Rico takes first step to recognizing gun rights

Despite being under the sovereignty of the United States for over a century, Puerto Ricans have been subject to some of the most restrictive firearms laws in US history. Last week, Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced signed Act 168 into law, which re-vamps the territory’s weapons permit system, imposing a shall-issue system for a permit to possess and carry firearms.The ownership permits cost $200 and must be renewed every 5 years for an additional $100. Under 168, a permit to own includes the right to carry and defensively use a firearm. The law also recognizes other U.S. firearm permits.

That said, the law is still restrictive, requiring a permit to own a firearm at all is a fundamental restriction on the right to keep and bear arms. It’s hard to say that something is a right at all if you have to jump through hoops and pay hundreds of dollars to do it. While Puerto Rico took a good step, it’s important to recognize that its residents are still being aggressively short changed, especially those adults aged 18-to-21, who are denied the right to purchase a gun.


Cuomo wants stricter arms licensing

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shocked us all, I’m sure, when he came out with a proposal to further tighten the screws of gun ownership in New York. Presently, New York lists a series of “serious misdemeanors” that disqualify residents from firearms ownership (one of which, of course, is unlicensed possession of a firearm). Cuomo wants to “fix” the law so that someone convicted in another jurisdiction of a misdemeanor crime, who then has the horrifying misfortune of moving to New York, cannot obtain a firearms license.

We’ve talked a lot about putting roadblocks in front of the fundamental right to arms. Licensing the exercise a right is among the most pernicious, insidious violations of right there is. Misdemeanors are often given unserious treatment by public defenders and prosecutors, with many Americans being coerced to “plea out” to “mere misdemeanors.” Misdemeanors aren’t the type of conduct people should permanently lose fundamental rights for.


St. Louis bans carrying in parks

On December 13th, St. Louis mayor Lyda Kewson signed an ordinance banning the carrying of arms in city parks which passed the city council 16-2. This is an obvious retaliation to the state’s recent embrace of constitutional carry. Missouri law allows adults to carry firearms, with some exceptions. One of those is “child-care facilities.” St Louis lashed out against the policy by declaring the City’s parks and related buildings as “child-care” facilities. Because where else would you want to leave a child but in the middle of a city park? Regardless, the classification lies on a thin, precarious reading of state law. It’s likely Kewson’s attempt to force a “loophole” in Missouri’s constitutional carry will fail if challenged.


Reply brief at Supreme Court in Bump Stock Case

Your favorite passionate and highly active civil rights lawyers had a busy week. FPF filed a reply brief in Guedes v. BATFE, a challenge to the Trump administration’s illegal “bump stock ban.” The brief outlines the laundry list of reasons the Supreme Court should hear the case and strike down the lower court’s decision upholding the ban, and bring some sanity back to administrative law. Check out the brief and related press release.


Injunction sought in “prohibited person” lawsuit

It might shock you to learn this, but California is pretty bad at recognizing the right of the people to keep and bear arms. The state has an expansive definition of “prohibited person,” and will deny the rights of a person who was convicted out-of-state of a non-violent felony, even when that conviction has been set aside and vacated, restoring the persons’s rights in the very state that took them to begin with. FPC announced the filing of a motion for preliminary injunction, to stop the state from continuing to deprive non-violent people of their fundamental rights. “This case and this motion seek to vindicate and restore fundamental rights,” explained the plaintiffs’ attorney, George M. Lee. “We have presented compelling reasons why the State of California, Attorney General Becerra, and the Department of Justice cannot continue to deprive these gentlemen of their right to possess firearms.” Check out the press release and motion here.


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