President’s Column | How NRA Fights For Your Rights In Court—And How You Can Help

by
posted on January 16, 2024
Charles L. Cotton

As an attorney in my professional life, and as NRA’s president in my volunteer life, I’m often asked by members about the ongoing legal fight for your right to keep and bear arms.

While the landscape of this battlefield is changing almost daily, I’m pleased to report that the Second Amendment is increasingly prevailing in our nation’s courts—thanks in large measure to the many freedom-respecting federal judges appointed by President Donald Trump. The vast majority of those advances have been the direct result of our 2022 victory in the landmark Bruen case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

For example, a common strategy of state governors and legislators seeking to ignore the Bruen decision has been to bar the carry of firearms on “private property” without express advance permission. This—together with widespread gun bans on public property—effectively nullifies the right to carry in those states.

So, NRA-ILA filed lawsuits—in Maryland, where a federal court enjoined the state from enforcing key parts of the ban; and in New Jersey and New York, where courts issued injunctions barring those laws from taking effect. In fact, every district court that has looked at those prohibitions allowing no carrying on private property without an invitation has concluded that they’re unconstitutional. That’s good news.

After California banned any advertisement or communication regarding firearms that “reasonably appears to be attractive to minors,” NRA-ILA sued the state, and a federal panel agreed with us that the state “cannot straitjacket the First Amendment” in such a way.

After Florida banned the sale or transfer of firearms to anyone under the age of 21, and courts upheld the ban, NRA-ILA petitioned the entire Eleventh Circuit to rehear the case—and our request was granted. In December, a federal judge in West Virginia rejected the federal ban on retail sales of handguns to anyone under age 21, and his decision cited Bruen throughout its 40 pages. Bans on firearm possession by young adults were certainly not part of the Second Amendment’s text, history or tradition at the time of the founding, so it’s hard to see how such bans could pass the Bruen test.

NRA-ILA is also engaged in ongoing legal battles against a semi-automatic-gun ban in Washington State; against a “permit to purchase” scheme in Oregon that amounts to a blanket ban because the state lacks sufficient infrastructure to process permit applications; against New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s blatantly unconstitutional ban on carrying firearms on public lands statewide; and against bans on semi-auto firearms and standard-capacity magazines in Delaware and Illinois.

At the federal level, we’re also fighting the ATF’s unauthorized attempts to re-write existing laws and thereby ban many private firearm transfers, re-define many firearms parts as “firearms” and re-classify stabilizing brace-equipped pistols as “short-barreled rifles” subject to a $200 tax under the National Firearms Act. All these actions contradict existing laws and prior ATF policies, making them arbitrary, capricious—and unlawful.

We’re also fighting to protect your lead ammunition. Last September, in federal court, we won an 11-year court battle to protect hunting with lead ammunition on Kaibab National Forest in Arizona—our fourth victory on that issue over the past 12 years.

Now, I wish I could tell you that all these victories are permanent and the fight is over. But, in many cases, these are just successful skirmishes in a much longer war. Many of the states that have tried to make an end-run around the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision—and had their new laws blocked by injunctions—are now appealing to ever-higher courts.

That means many of these legal fights are likely to go on for years. In that sense, they’re likely to be just as costly, and just as crucial to our future freedoms, as the landmark legislative victories we’ve won over the decades, such as the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 or the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005. Both of those battles took NRA more than a decade to win.

So much of this fight requires us to play defense more than offense—to defend our hard-won victories in Congress and in the Supreme Court. That’s why this legal fight is so important. And it’s why your vote in every election is so crucial: Because you choose the leaders—who appoint and confirm the judges—who decide whether our God-given right to defend ourselves and our families survives or is gaveled into oblivion. That decision is yours alone.

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