Updates in Liability, Forfeiture, and Under-21 Cases in Today's FPC Daily 2A Legal Update
In today's FPC legal update, we have updates from a cases involving an attempted gun forfeiture, Florida's under-21 gun ban, and gun retailer liability.
New Jersey v. W.C.
Issue: Gun forfeiture
Court: New Jersey State Court
In New Jersey, defendants subject to certain final restraining orders (FROs) are banned from owning firearms for at least two years. In this case, an FRO was entered against W.C. in May 2020, but the judge reconsidered their decision and dismissed the complaint after a second trial the next month. On the day before the second trial, however, New Jersey filed a motion to have W.C.'s guns forfeited to the state, arguing that the first FRO prohibited him from owning guns. A trial judge dismissed New Jersey's motion, and the state appealed while continuing to argue that the first FRO required the forfeiture of W.C.'s guns despite the subsequent order vacating it.
Yesterday, a New Jersey appeals court affirmed the dismissal of the state's forfeiture motion, saying that its argument "leads to an absurd result," and that "[t]he logic underlying the State's position is simple, but flawed." The court determined that W.C. wasn't subject to the law requiring the forfeiture of his guns once the FRO was vacated. Appeals from this court go to the New Jersey Supreme Court.
NRA v. Swearingen
Issue: Under-21 gun ban
Court: Northern District of Florida
In this lawsuit, the plaintiffs challenged Florida's law prohibiting the sale of firearms (including rifles and shotguns) to adults under-21. Yesterday, the judge determined that the law does not violate the Second Amendment, saying that the restrictions like the challenged one are longstanding and that "the Eleventh Circuit has held that longstanding prohibitions fall outside the Second Amendment." However, the judge ended his opinion by noting his "grave concerns about the balance the Legislature struck" when enacting the law, saying that "it is not clear how much the Act does to prevent tragedies like the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School" and that "[i]f this Court were writing on a 'blankish' slate—accepting Heller, as it must—it would subject the Act to a more searching inquiry." If the case is appealed. it will go to the Eleventh Circuit, which is comprised of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.
In re Academy
Court: Texas Supreme Court
The plaintiffs in this lawsuit claim that the gun retailer Academy is liable for selling the rifle used in a 2017 shooting because the gun was packaged with a 30-round magazine, which is illegal in Colorado (where the shooter lived when he bought the gun in Texas). The lawsuit claimed that while the sale of the gun itself would normally be legal, the inclusion of the prohibited-in-Colorado magazine made the sale illegal. Today, the Texas Supreme Court determined that Academy did not violate the law when it sold the rifle, and therefore the lawsuits against the retailer are covered by the PLCAA (the law protecting the rights supply chain from frivolous lawsuits). "In sum, the sale of the Ruger AR-556 rifle to Kelley complied with the legal conditions of sale in both Texas and Colorado," the court said. "Because the Gun Control Act did not regulate the sale of the magazines, the Colorado law prohibiting their sale was immaterial." Any appeals from the Texas Supreme Court would go to the United States Supreme Court.