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September 22, 2009

State AGs and the Second Amendment incorporation debate

Thanks to law.com, everyone can check out this very interesting piecefrom a California legal newspaper headlined "With 9th Circuit Set to Hear Firearms Case En Banc, Calif. AG Walks Line on Gun Control."  Here are a few highlights:

A hard-fought firearms case is coming to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for en banc arguments Thursday, with the usual gun groups weighing in as amici on the usual sides.

Though the case arose in Alameda County, Calif., home to California Attorney General Jerry Brown, he hasn't submitted briefs. But in another case across the country, involving the same issue, Brown filed an amicus that has gun control advocates shaking their heads. After the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the Second Amendment didn't apply to state or local governments — and therefore upheld a local handgun ordinance — Brown joined those asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling.

The move throws a spotlight on how Brown, a presumed candidate for the governorship, handles this sometimes socially divisive issue. His 7th Circuit brief disappointed — but didn't surprise — Juliet Leftwich, the legal director of Legal Communities Against Violence in San Francisco. "He just stands in stark contrast to Bill Lockyer, who was an active leader in this area," she said....

Chief Deputy Attorney General James Humes said the Justice Department does plenty to stanch the scourge of guns but simply believes in different approaches to the problem. "I would say Jerry Brown is much more interested in law enforcement than legislation," said Humes.

Under Brown's leadership, Humes said the department has seized 1,194 firearms and arrested 87 individuals on California's list of those prohibited from carrying firearms. Authorities have also nabbed people illegally transporting guns into the state after buying them at shows in Nevada. As for the attorney general's position in the 7th Circuit case, Humes calls it a "common-sense" approach. "The Second Amendment exists, and it will exist whether we like it or not," he said....

According to Humes, the AG didn't weigh in on the 9th Circuit case because he agreed with part of the ruling — the panel had simultaneously affirmed the county's right to regulate guns beyond the home, in sensitive public places. Indeed, Brown argued for similar treatment in his 7th Circuit brief.  The attorney general also held up the 9th Circuit panel ruling as evidence that such high court guidance was necessary.

Beyond raising a variety of issues concerning how Jerry Brown is trying to position himself politically, this article raises in my mind of the interesting challenges that Heller and the Second Amendment incorporation debate create for elected state Attorneys General. 

I would surmise all but a few northern and urban places, it would not be politically wise for a state Attorney General to be vocally opposed to individual gun rights and thus it would not be shrewd to come out publically against incorporation of the Second Amendment.  And yet, I also think that most state Attorneys General realize that there are serious legal and practical headaches if (and when?) the Second Amendment is declared applicable as a constitutional limit on any and all state gun restrictions and regulations.  My guess is that, like AG Brown, most state AG will be inclined to dodge this issue as much as possible while perhaps privately hoping that the Supreme Court refuses to incorporate the Second Amendment.

Some related Second Amendment incorporation posts:

September 22, 2009 at 03:06 PM | Permalink


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Do you know the names of the en banc judges? It's two days out and the website still doesn't have it.

Posted by: . | Sep 22, 2009 3:20:24 PM


It's on the calendar part of the website.

Posted by: anonymous | Sep 22, 2009 7:00:18 PM

Thanks, was looking on wrong part of website. It's interesting how the en banc judges could go in a different way than the judges involved in the en banc vote.

Posted by: . | Sep 22, 2009 7:14:13 PM

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