Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence v. Salazar, Civil Action No. 08-2243 (CKK).

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtColleen Kollar-Kotelly
Citation612 F.Supp.2d 1
PartiesBRADY CAMPAIGN TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Plaintiff, v. Kenneth L. SALAZAR, Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, et al., Defendants. National Parks Conservation Association, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Kenneth L. Salazar, Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date19 March 2009
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 08-2243 (CKK).,Civil Action No. 09-013(CKK).

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612 F.Supp.2d 1
BRADY CAMPAIGN TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Plaintiff,
v.
Kenneth L. SALAZAR, Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, et al., Defendants.
National Parks Conservation Association, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Kenneth L. Salazar, Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, et al., Defendants.
Civil Action No. 08-2243 (CKK).
Civil Action No. 09-013(CKK).
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
March 19, 2009.

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Bruce S. Manheim, Ropes & Gray, LLP, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Barry Alan Weiner, U.S. Department of Justice, General Litigation Section, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, District Judge.


Approximately 25 years ago, the Department of the Interior implemented regulations that generally prohibited possession of firearms in national parks unless they were "packed, cased or stored in a manner that [would] prevent their ready use." 48 Fed.Reg. 30,252 (June 30, 1983), codified at 36 C.F.R. § 2.4(a)(2). A similar regulation applied to firearms in national wildlife refuges. See 49 Fed.Reg. 18,444 (April 30, 1984), codified at 50 C.F.R. § 27.42(e). These firearm restrictions are no longer in place. On December 10, 2008, the Department of the Interior promulgated a final rule that allows persons to possess concealed, loaded, and operable firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges in accordance with the laws of the state in which the national park or wildlife refuge is located:

a person may possess, carry, and transport concealed, loaded, and operable firearms within a [national park or national wildlife refuge] in accordance with the laws of the state in which the [national park or national wildlife refuge], or that portion thereof, is located, except as otherwise prohibited by applicable Federal law.

73 Fed.Reg. 74,966, 74,972 (Dec. 10, 2008), amending 36 C.F.R. § 2.4, 50 C.F.R. § 27.42 (hereinafter, the "Final Rule"). Prior to issuing the Final Rule, the Department of the Interior did not prepare an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement pursuant to the National Environmental Protection Act ("NEPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 4331, et seq.

Plaintiffs Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence ("Brady") and National Parks Conservation Association (along with two other Plaintiff organizations, "NPCA"),1 have brought suit against Secretary Kenneth Salazar, in his official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior ("DOI"), and numerous other governmental entities and officials (collectively, "Defendants").2

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Plaintiffs assert, inter alia, that Defendants failed to consider the Final Rule's environmental impacts in violation of NEPA and multiple other Congressional statutes.3

The lynchpin of Defendants' response is that the Final Rule has no environmental impacts—and that Defendants were not required to perform any environmental analysis—because the Final Rule only authorizes persons to possess concealed, loaded, and operable firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges, and does not authorize persons to discharge, brandish, or otherwise use the concealed, loaded, and operable firearms. In other words, the Final Rule has no environmental impacts according to Defendants because the Final Rule does not authorize any environmental impacts. By relying on this tautology, Defendants (1) abdicated their Congressionally-mandated obligation to evaluate all reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts, whether authorized by the Final Rule or not, and (2) ignored (without sufficient explanation) substantial information in the administrative record concerning environmental impacts, including (i) Defendants' own long-standing belief under the previous regulations that allowing only inoperable and stored firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges was necessary to safeguard against certain risks to the environment and (ii) the almost universal view among interested parties that persons who possess concealed, loaded, and operable firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges will use them for any number of reasons, including self-defense against persons and animals (all of which suggests that the Final Rule will have some impact on the environment).

Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction to enjoin implementation of the Final Rule. Because the Court finds that the Final Rule is the product of Defendants' astoundingly flawed process, the Court holds that Plaintiffs are highly likely to prevail on the merits of their NEPA claims.4 The Court also holds that Plaintiffs have met their burden to show a likelihood of irreparable harm, the absence of significant harm to other interested persons or entities, and that the public interest weighs in favor of preliminary injunctive relief. Having balanced all of these considerations and found that they weigh in favor of issuing a preliminary injunction, the Court shall GRANT Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction.

In reaching this decision, the Court emphasizes that, despite many of the arguments raised by the parties, intervenor-movants, and amici curiae, this case is not a platform for resolving disputes concerning the merits of concealed weapons or laws related to concealed weapons that are appropriately directed to the other branches of government. The Court is bound to consider only whether Defendants have complied with Congress' statutes and regulations, and not whether Defendants have

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made wise judgments in any normative sense. Accordingly, the Court expresses no view as to the merits of any laws or regulations related to concealed weapons or firearms generally.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

As explained above, previous regulations pertaining to national parks and wildlife refuges generally prohibited possession of firearms unless they were unloaded and packed, cased, or stored in a manner that prevented their ready use. 48 Fed.Reg. 30,252 (June 30, 1983); 49 Fed.Reg. 18,444 (April 30, 1984). These regulations were "designed to ensure public safety and provide maximum protection of natural resources by limiting the opportunity for unauthorized use of weapons ... while providing reasonable regulatory relief for persons living within or traveling through park areas." 48 Fed.Reg. at 30,265.5 As reflected in the Administrative Record, this view persisted among Defendants until recently. See, e.g., A.R. 339 (11/29/06 National Park Service Briefing Statement) (repeating the justification for firearm restrictions in national parks and adding that "[m]ost weapons carried for the protection from wildlife are not adequate for that purpose. Untrained individuals attempting to protect themselves from dangerous animals often exacerbate the situation").

Defendants' views changed. On December 14, 2007, forty-seven United States Senators wrote to the Secretary of the Interior asking to have these restrictions lifted. 73 Fed.Reg. 74,966, 74,967 (Dec. 10, 2008). Four additional United States Senators made a similar request on February 11, 2008. Id.6 The DOI "chose to address this issue" on April 30, 2008, by proposing a new rule to allow persons to possess concealed, loaded, and operable firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges to the extent permitted in any state park or wildlife refuge in the state in which the federal park or wildlife refuge was located:

an individual will be able to possess, carry, and transport concealed, loaded, and operable firearms within a [national park or wildlife refuge] in the same manner, and to the same extent, that a person may lawfully possess, carry, and transport concealed, loaded and operable firearms in any [state park or state wildlife refuge] in the state in which the [national park or wildlife refuge], or that portion thereof, is located.

73 Fed.Reg. 23,388 (Apr. 30, 2008). The DOI explained that the purpose of this proposed rule was to better respect the rights of states, forty-eight of which "provide for the possession of concealed firearms by their citizens," a larger number than when the previous regulations were promulgated. Id. Accordingly, the DOI explained that the regulations "should be amended to defer to this development in State law." Id. at 23,389.

Conspicuous by its absence, however, was any indication that the previously-recognized "public safety" and "protection of natural resources" concerns had been alleviated over time. Id. Instead, the

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DOI simply acknowledged "its obligations under NEPA to assess the impact of any Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, health, and safety," and noted that it was "currently working to determine the appropriate level of NEPA assessment and documentation that will be required for promulgation of this regulation." Id. at 23,390.

The proposed rule requested public comments until June 30, 2008, a date that was later extended by an additional thirty days. 73 Fed.Reg. at 74,967. In total, the DOI received approximately 125,000 public comments on the proposed rule. Id. Significantly—and as described in greater detail below—many of the comments suggested that allowing persons to possess concealed, loaded, and operative firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges would result in the use of those firearms, particularly for self-defense. See, e.g., A.R.1927 ("I [] go back packing and would like to be able to carr[ry] my fire arm [sic] with me for possible wild animal attack"); A.R. 5609 ("for those of us who have conceal[ed] carry permits, we carry [firearms] for the protection of our families and self from those who would do us harm. We are not looking to shoot anyone unless we are forced to in order to protect our family"). The DOI formed a working group to analyze these...

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  • Nat'l Parks Conservation Ass'n v. Jewell, Civil Action No. 12–1690 (RWR).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 30, 2013
    ...projects by following certain procedures during the decision-making process.’ ” Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence v. Salazar, 612 F.Supp.2d 1, 13 (D.D.C.2009) (quoting City of Alexandria, Va. v. Slater, 198 F.3d 862, 866 (D.C.Cir.1999)). “[T]he twofold purpose of NEPA [is] to ensure th......
  • Reed v. Salazar, Array
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • September 28, 2010
    ...to explain its determination that a categorical exclusion is applicable. See, e.g., Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence v. Salazar, 612 F.Supp.2d 1, 17 (D.D.C.2009) (holding that agency's failure to consider reasonably foreseeable impacts of agency action is sufficient to render the agen......
  • Safari Club Int'l v. Jewell, Civil Action Nos. 11–cv–01564 (BAH), 12–cv–00340 (BAH).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 9, 2013
    ...that a categorical exclusion is applicable.” Reed, 744 F.Supp.2d at 116 (citing Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence v. Salazar, 612 F.Supp.2d 1, 17 (D.D.C.2009) (holding that agency's failure to consider reasonably foreseeable impacts renders agency's invocation of a categorical exclusio......
  • Nat'l Ski Areas Ass'n, Inc. v. U.S. Forest Serv., Civil Action No. 12–cv–00048–WJM.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Colorado
    • December 19, 2012
    ...as here, where rights have been violated under three separate statutes. See, e.g., Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence v. Salazar, 612 F.Supp.2d 1, 24 (D.D.C.2009) (stating that “a procedural violation of NEPA is ... a relevant consideration” for determining irreparable injury.) In consi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
48 cases
  • Nat'l Parks Conservation Ass'n v. Jewell, Civil Action No. 12–1690 (RWR).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 30, 2013
    ...projects by following certain procedures during the decision-making process.’ ” Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence v. Salazar, 612 F.Supp.2d 1, 13 (D.D.C.2009) (quoting City of Alexandria, Va. v. Slater, 198 F.3d 862, 866 (D.C.Cir.1999)). “[T]he twofold purpose of NEPA [is] to ensure th......
  • Reed v. Salazar, Array
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • September 28, 2010
    ...to explain its determination that a categorical exclusion is applicable. See, e.g., Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence v. Salazar, 612 F.Supp.2d 1, 17 (D.D.C.2009) (holding that agency's failure to consider reasonably foreseeable impacts of agency action is sufficient to render the agen......
  • Safari Club Int'l v. Jewell, Civil Action Nos. 11–cv–01564 (BAH), 12–cv–00340 (BAH).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 9, 2013
    ...that a categorical exclusion is applicable.” Reed, 744 F.Supp.2d at 116 (citing Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence v. Salazar, 612 F.Supp.2d 1, 17 (D.D.C.2009) (holding that agency's failure to consider reasonably foreseeable impacts renders agency's invocation of a categorical exclusio......
  • Nat'l Ski Areas Ass'n, Inc. v. U.S. Forest Serv., Civil Action No. 12–cv–00048–WJM.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Colorado
    • December 19, 2012
    ...as here, where rights have been violated under three separate statutes. See, e.g., Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence v. Salazar, 612 F.Supp.2d 1, 24 (D.D.C.2009) (stating that “a procedural violation of NEPA is ... a relevant consideration” for determining irreparable injury.) In consi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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