WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 24, 2020) — Today, Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) and Firearms Policy Foundation (FPF) announced the filing of an important brief with the United States Supreme Court in the case of Zoie H. v. Nebraska. The brief, authored by FPC’s Director of Research, Joseph Greenlee, and Second Amendment scholar David Kopel of the Independence Institute, is available online at FPCLegal.org.
Petitioner Zoie H. was a juvenile who was charged with attempted theft of property worth over $5,000. Because she was a juvenile, under Nebraska law, she was not entitled to a jury trial. But that conviction resulted in a total deprivation of her right to keep and bear arms until the age of 25—six years beyond Nebraska’s age of majority. Her petition for certiorari argues that because the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right, the State cannot deprive her of it without the benefit of a jury trial, and by doing so, Nebraska violated her Second and Sixth Amendment rights.
FPC and FPF filed a brief, joined by many other parties, tracing the history of the Second Amendment and arguing that, according to original public meaning, Second Amendment protections are in full force from ages 19 to 25. The brief further argues that throughout the colonial and founding eras, hundreds of statutes mandated gun ownership among 19-to-25-year-olds, showing that gun ownership has historically been understood to be a right and sometimes a duty of young adults.
Moreover, they say, there were no age-based restrictions on 19-to-25-year-olds in the colonial or founding eras, regardless of the age of majority. Additionally, the FPC coalition brief explains that historically, the right to keep and bear arms was never prohibited based on nonviolent crimes. Thus, FPC and the amici argue, according to the Constitution’s text and original public meaning, the Second Amendment’s protections apply with full force to persons aged 19-to-25 (the ages for which Zoie H. argues the Nebraska ban is unconstitutional). As such, Nebraska’s treatment of the Second Amendment contradicts its text, history, and tradition and thus violates the Constitution.
“The Supreme Court has unequivocally held that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right,” said FPC’s Greenlee. “For a state to deprive someone of Second Amendment protections based on a nonviolent crime and without even a jury trial contradicts the fundamental nature of the right and violates the Constitution. We’re hopeful that the Supreme Court will take this case and hold unconstitutional Nebraska’s historically unsupported ban.”
Firearms Policy Coalition (www.firearmspolicy.org) is a 501(c)4 grassroots nonprofit organization. FPC’s mission is to protect and defend constitutional rights—especially the right to keep and bear arms—advance individual liberty, and restore freedom.
Firearms Policy Foundation (www.firearmsfoundation.org) is a grassroots 501(c)3 nonprofit public benefit organization. FPF’s mission is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and the People’s rights, privileges, and immunities deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition—especially the inalienable, fundamental, and individual right to keep and bear arms.
- Zoie H. was charged as a juvenile of attempted theft for allegedly attempting to steal an automobile.
- Attempted theft by unlawful taking of something worth $5,000 or more is a felony in Nebraska.
- As a result of an attempted theft conviction, under Nebraska law, a juvenile automatically forfeits her fundamental right to keep and bear arms until the age of 25—well beyond the age of majority, which is 19 in Nebraska.
- Zoie H. sought a jury trial, but Nebraska does not allow jury trials for juvenile court proceedings.
- Zoie H. argued that the punishment of the deprivation of her fundamental Second Amendment rights for six years past the age of majority makes the crime serious enough to require a jury trial, regardless of whether it is a juvenile proceeding.
- The Supreme Court of Nebraska ruled against Zoie H., despite the Supreme Court of Nevada reaching a different holding—i.e., that the deprivation of Second Amendment rights requires the right to a jury trial—just last year.
- Zoie H. filed a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.
- FPC filed an amicus brief supporting Zoie H.’s petition on behalf of itself and its members, joined by FPF and fellow amici California Gun Rights Foundation, Madison Society Foundation, Second Amendment Foundation, Independence Institute, and Second Amendment law professors and scholars Nicholas Johnson (Fordham), Donald Kilmer (Lincoln), George Mocsary (Wyoming), Joseph Olson (Mitchell Hamline), Glenn Reynolds (Tennessee), and Gregory Wallace (Campbell).
- The FPC coalition brief demonstrates that historically, the Second Amendment fully protected 19-to-25-year-olds, and that the right to keep and bear arms was never deprived based on nonviolent crimes--even theft. Rather, several laws expressly prevented nonviolent criminals—including those convicted of theft—from being disarmed.
- FPC and FPF hope the Supreme Court will reinforce the fundamental nature of the right to keep and bear arms by preventing its deprivation for nonviolent crimes and without a jury trial.