700 F.3d 185 (5th Cir. 2012), 11-10959, National Rifle Ass'n of America, Inc. v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives

Docket Nº:11-10959.
Citation:700 F.3d 185
Opinion Judge:PRADO, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, INCORPORATED; Andrew M. Payne; Rebekah Jennings; Brennan Harmon, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, FIREARMS, AND EXPLOSIVES; B. Todd Jones, In His Official Capacity as Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Eric H. Holder, Jr., U.S. Attorney General, De
Attorney:Charles Justin Cooper (argued), Peter A. Patterson, David H. Thompson, Cooper & Kirk, P.L.L.C., Washington, DC, Fernando Manuel Bustos, Law Offices of Fernando M. Bustos, P.C., Lubbock, TX, Brian Stuart Koukoutchos, Mandeville, LA, for Plaintiffs-Appellants. Anisha Sasheen Dasgupta (argued), U.S....
Judge Panel:Before KING, PRADO and HAYNES, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:October 25, 2012
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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700 F.3d 185 (5th Cir. 2012)

NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, INCORPORATED; Andrew M. Payne; Rebekah Jennings; Brennan Harmon, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, FIREARMS, AND EXPLOSIVES; B. Todd Jones, In His Official Capacity as Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Eric H. Holder, Jr., U.S. Attorney General, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 11-10959.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

October 25, 2012

Page 186

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Charles Justin Cooper (argued), Peter A. Patterson, David H. Thompson, Cooper & Kirk, P.L.L.C., Washington, DC, Fernando Manuel Bustos, Law Offices of Fernando

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M. Bustos, P.C., Lubbock, TX, Brian Stuart Koukoutchos, Mandeville, LA, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Anisha Sasheen Dasgupta (argued), U.S. DOJ, Civ. Div., App. Staff, Washington, DC, for Defendants-Appellees.

Christopher Paul Johnson, Meredith Anne Wholley, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, L.L.P., New York City, Scott Charles Medlock, Texas Civ. Rights Project, Austin, TX, for Nat. Shooting Sports Found., Inc., Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Graduate Student Assembly and Student Government of the University of Texas at Austin, Mothers Against Teen Violence, Students for Gun-Free Schools in Texas, Texas Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Amici Curiae.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Before KING, PRADO and HAYNES, Circuit Judges.

PRADO, Circuit Judge:

This appeal concerns the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C. § 922(b)(1) and (c)(1), and attendant regulations, which prohibit federally licensed firearms dealers from selling handguns to persons under the age of 21. Appellants— the National Rifle Association and individuals who at the time of filing were over the age of 18 but under the age of 21— brought suit in district court against several federal government agencies, challenging the constitutionality of the laws. The essence of their challenge is that the laws violate the Second Amendment and the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment by preventing law-abiding 18-to-20-year-old adults from purchasing handguns from federally licensed dealers. The district court rejected their constitutional claims and granted summary judgment for the government. We AFFIRM.

I. Background

A. Procedural Background

Appellants filed suit in district court against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (" ATF" ), ATF's Acting Director, and the Attorney General of the United States, challenging the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(b)(1) and (c)(1), as well as attendant regulations, 27 C.F.R. §§ 478.99(b)(1), 478.124(a), and 478.96(b). These provisions prohibit licensed dealers— i.e., federal firearms licensees (" FFLs" )— from selling handguns to persons under the age of 21. Appellants include: (i) Andrew M. Payne, Rebekah Jennings, and Brennan Harmon, who were between the ages of 18 and 21 when the suit was filed; and (ii) the National Rifle Association (" NRA" ) on behalf of (a) 18-to-20-year-old members who are prevented from purchasing handguns from FFLs, and (b) FFL members who are prohibited from making such sales. Appellants asserted that the federal laws are unconstitutional because they infringe on the right of 18-to-20-year-old adults to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment and deny them equal protection under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Appellants sought a declaratory judgment that the laws are unconstitutional, as well as injunctive relief.

Before the district court, the government filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Appellants lacked standing to challenge the federal laws and that their constitutional claims failed on the merits. The district court concluded that Appellants had standing, but then determined that Appellants failed to make out either a viable Second Amendment claim or a viable equal protection claim. Appellants timely appealed.

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B. Statutory Framework

The federal laws at issue— 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(b)(1) and (c)(1), 27 C.F.R. §§ 478.99(b)(1), 478.124(a), and 478.96(b)— were enacted as part of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, Pub.L. No. 90-351, 82 Stat. 197. Together, the laws regulate the sale of firearms by FFLs and are part of a larger statutory package that prohibits persons from " engag[ing] in the business of importing, manufacturing, or dealing in firearms," unless a person is a " licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer." 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(1)(A). To " engage[ ] in th[is] business" means to " devote[ ] time, attention, and labor" to the manufacture, sale, or importation of firearms or ammunition " as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms." Id. § 921(21)(A)-(E).

The first contested provision, 18 U.S.C. § 922(b)(1), provides that:

It shall be unlawful for any licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, licensed dealer, or licensed collector to sell or deliver ... any firearm or ammunition to any individual who the licensee knows or has reasonable cause to believe is less than eighteen years of age, and, if the firearm, or ammunition is other than a shotgun or rifle, or ammunition for a shotgun or rifle, to any individual who the licensee knows or has reasonable cause to believe is less than twenty-one years of age ....

This provision is paired with § 922(c)(1), which prevents an FFL from selling a firearm to a person " who does not appear in person at the licensee's business premises (other than another licensed importer, manufacturer, or dealer)" unless the person submits a sworn statement that " in the case of any firearm other than a shotgun or a rifle, [he or she is] twenty-one years or more of age."

These provisions are the statutory authority for several implementing regulations that Appellants also contest. First, 27 C.F.R. § 478.99(b)(1) provides that an FFL

shall not sell or deliver ... any firearm or ammunition to any individual who the importer, manufacturer, dealer, or collector knows or has reasonable cause to believe is less than 18 years of age, and, if the firearm, or ammunition, is other than a shotgun or rifle, or ammunition for a shotgun or rifle, to any individual who the importer, manufacturer, dealer, or collector knows or has reasonable cause to believe is less than 21 years of age.

Second, 27 C.F.R. §§ 478.96(b) and 478.124(a) prohibit FFLs from selling firearms unless they obtain a signed copy of Form 4473 from the purchaser. Form 4473 is used, among other purposes, to establish a purchaser's eligibility to possess a firearm by establishing his or her date of birth. Id. § 478.124(c)(1). It also requires the execution and dating of a sworn statement indicating that if " the firearm to be transferred is a firearm other than a shotgun or rifle, the transferee is 21 years or more of age." Id. § 478.124(f).

Congress later supplemented this regulatory scheme with the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which prohibits persons under the age of 18 from possessing handguns and bars the transfer of handguns to them, with limited exceptions. Pub.L. No. 103-322, § 110201, 108 Stat. 1796, 2010 (adding 18 U.S.C. § 922(x)). The parties agree that the network of federal laws amounts to the following. Eighteen-to-twenty-year-olds may possess and use handguns. Parents or guardians may gift handguns to 18-to-20-

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year-olds.1 Those not " engaged in the business" of selling firearms— that is, non-FFLs— may sell handguns to 18-to-20-year-olds; put differently, 18-to-20-year-olds may acquire handguns through unlicensed, private sales.2 Eighteen-to-twenty-year-olds may possess and use long-guns, and may purchase long-guns from FFLs (or non-FFLs).3 However, the parties also agree that 18-to-20-year-olds may not purchase handguns from FFLs. Appellants challenge 18 U.S.C. § 922(b)(1) and (c)(1), and corresponding regulations, only to the extent that these laws prohibit sales of handguns or handgun ammunition by FFLs to 18-to-20-year-olds.4

II. Standing

A. Applicable Law

We review questions of standing de novo. Time Warner Cable, Inc. v. Hudson, 667 F.3d 630, 635 (5th Cir.2012). The parties seeking access to federal court bear the burden of establishing their standing. Id. " [T]he irreducible constitutional minimum of standing contains three elements." Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992). The first is an " injury in fact," which is a " concrete and particularized ... invasion of a legally protected

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interest." Id. (citations omitted). The second is that " there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of[; ] the injury has to be fairly ... trace[able] to the challenged action of the defendant." Id. (second alteration in original) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Third, " it must be likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision." Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Only injury-in-fact is at issue in this appeal.

" While the proof required to establish standing increases as the suit proceeds, the standing inquiry remains focused on whether the party invoking jurisdiction had the requisite stake in the outcome when the suit was filed." Davis v. Fed. Election Comm'n, 554 U.S. 724, 734, 128 S.Ct. 2759, 171 L.Ed.2d 737 (2008) (citations omitted). Mootness, however, is " the doctrine of standing set in a time frame: The requisite personal interest that must...

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