Peoples Rights Organization, Inc. v. City of Columbus, Nos. 96-3468

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtSUHRHEINRICH; MERRITT
Citation152 F.3d 522
PartiesPEOPLES RIGHTS ORGANIZATION, INC., et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees/Cross-Appellants, v. CITY OF COLUMBUS, et al., Defendants-Appellants/Cross-Appellees.
Decision Date15 July 1998
Docket Number96-3495,Nos. 96-3468

Page 522

152 F.3d 522
PEOPLES RIGHTS ORGANIZATION, INC., et al.,
Plaintiffs-Appellees/Cross-Appellants,
v.
CITY OF COLUMBUS, et al., Defendants-Appellants/Cross-Appellees.
Nos. 96-3468, 96-3495.
United States Court of Appeals,
Sixth Circuit.
Argued June 3, 1997.
Decided July 15, 1998.

Page 525

Donald C. Brey, Chester, Hoffman, Willcox & Saxbe, Columbus, OH, Stephen P. Halbrook (argued and briefed), Fairfax, VA, for Plaintiffs-Appellees/Cross-Appellants.

Glenn B. Redick, Chief Litigation Attorney (argued and briefed), Columbus City Attorney's Office, Civil Division, Clumbus, OH, for Defendants-Appellants/Cross-Appellees.

Barbara B. McDowell (briefed), Jones, day, Reavis & Pogue, Washington, DC, for Center To Prevent Handgun Violence and Handgun Control Federation of Ohio.

Sally Brodbeck (briefed), Grafton, OH, for Ohio Constitution Defense Council.

Before: MERRITT, CONTIE, and SUHRHEINRICH, Circuit Judges.

SUHRHEINRICH, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which CONTIE, J., joined. MERRITT, J. (pp. 539-40), delivered a separate dissenting opinion.

SUHRHEINRICH, Circuit Judge.

In 1994, this circuit invalidated an ordinance of the City of Columbus (hereinafter referred to as Columbus or the City) that banned assault weapons. Springfield Armory, Inc. v. City of Columbus, 29 F.3d 250, 254 (6th Cir.1994). The ordinance defined an "assault weapon" as any one of thirty-four specific rifles, three specific shotguns, nine specific pistols, or "[o]ther models by the same manufacturer with the same action design that have slight modifications or enhancements." Id. at 251 (quoting former Columbus City Codes § 2323.01(I)(4)). We held that the ordinance was unconstitutionally vague. Id. We found that "the ordinance is fundamentally irrational and impossible to apply consistently by the buying public, the sportsman, the law enforcement officer, the prosecutor or the judge." Id. at 252. We concluded: "The ordinance purports to define 'assault weapons' but in fact it bans only an arbitrary and ill-defined subset of these weapons without providing any explanation for its selections." Id.

Following this decision, Columbus amended its ordinance. Columbus City Codes (C.C.C.) section 2323.31(A) provides that "[n]o person shall sell, offer or display for sale, give, lend or transfer ownership of, acquire or possess any assault weapon," and section 2323.32(A) provides that "[n]o person shall knowingly possess a large capacity magazine." 1 Section 2323.11(G) sets forth five definitions of an "assault weapon":

(1) any semiautomatic action, center fire rifle or carbine that accepts a detachable magazine with a capacity of 20 rounds or more;

(2) any semiautomatic shotgun with a magazine capacity of more than six rounds;

Page 526

(3) any semiautomatic handgun that is:

(a) a modification of a rifle described in division (a)(1), 2 or a modification of an automatic firearms [sic]; or

(b) originally designed to accept a detachable magazine with a capacity of more than 20 rounds.

(4) any firearm which may be restored to an operable assault weapon as defined in divisions (G)(1), (2), or (3) of this section.

(5) any part, or combination of parts, designed or intended to convert a firearm into an assault weapon as defined in divisions (G)(1), (2), or (3) of this section, or any combination of parts from which an assault weapon as defined in (G)(1), (2) or (3) of this section, may be readily assembled if those parts are in the possession or under the control of the same person.

C.C.C. § 2323.11(G)(1)-(5).

The ordinance contains two grandfather clauses which exempt certain firearms and magazines from the ordinance's provisions. Section 2323.31(B)(3) exempts any "assault weapon" that was lawfully possessed and registered pursuant to former Columbus City Codes section 2323.05 in 1989. 3 Section 2323.32(B)(2) exempts a "large capacity magazine" which, among other things, belongs to or is possessed by the owner of a firearm that is registered under the National Firearms Act, 26 U.S.C. §§ 5801-71.

The present case involves a challenge to the amended Columbus ordinance. Plaintiffs, Peoples Rights Organization, Inc. (P.R.O.) and two of its members, have brought a pre-enforcement action pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a). P.R.O. has large numbers of members who reside in Columbus and who possess, display, sell, lend, or acquire semiautomatic rifles, handguns, shotguns, and parts. The complaint asserts that P.R.O.'s members are unable to determine whether such firearms and parts are "assault weapons" under the Columbus ordinance. Plaintiffs allege in their complaint that sections 2323.11, 2323.31, and 2323.32 are unconstitutionally vague, violate due process of law, are unreasonably discriminatory, and deny the equal protection of the laws, and they seek declaratory and injunctive relief.

The district court first determined that the case was justiciable. See Peoples Rights Org. v. City of Columbus, 925 F.Supp. 1254, 1259-60 (S.D.Ohio 1996). After proceeding to the merits, the district court upheld the two grandfather clauses, finding them to be "in some fashion relevant to the City's goal" of protecting the ownership interests of those owners who possessed their weapons prior to Columbus's first attempt to ban assault weapons in 1989. Id. at 1263. However, the court declared the definitions of "assault weapon" in section 2323.11(G)(1), (G)(3), (G)(4), and certain portions of (G)(5) to be unconstitutionally vague. Id. at 1270. Therefore, the court enjoined the enforcement of section 2323.31(A) as it applied to "assault weapons" defined in those sections.

We agree with the district court that the controversy is justiciable. With respect to the merits, we uphold the grandfather provision in section 2323.32(B)(2) with the exception of one clause and invalidate the grandfather provision in section 2323.31(B)(3). We also invalidate each of the definitions of "assault weapon" contained in section 2323.11(G)(1)-(5). Hence, we AFFIRM IN PART AND REVERSE IN PART.

I.

A.

The Constitution confines the federal courts to the adjudication of actual "cases"

Page 527

and "controversies." U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. As the Supreme Court has explained, the power of the federal judiciary is limited to those disputes "which confine federal courts to a role consistent with a system of separated powers and which are traditionally thought to be capable of resolution through the judicial process." Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 97, 88 S.Ct. 1942, 20 L.Ed.2d 947 (1968); accord National Rifle Ass'n v. Magaw, 132 F.3d 272, 279 (6th Cir.1997).

The standing doctrine, for instance, requires that a litigant have suffered an injury-in-fact that is fairly traceable to the defendant's allegedly unlawful conduct and likely to be redressed by the requested relief. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992); Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751, 104 S.Ct. 3315, 82 L.Ed.2d 556 (1984). In the present case, Plaintiffs have brought a pre-enforcement challenge pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a). A declaratory judgment generally is sought before a completed injury-in-fact has occurred. Magaw, 132 F.3d at 279; Pic-A-State Pa., Inc. v. Reno, 76 F.3d 1294, 1298 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 517 U.S. 1246, 116 S.Ct. 2504, 135 L.Ed.2d 194 (1996). Nevertheless, when seeking declaratory or injunctive relief, the plaintiff must demonstrate actual present harm or a significant possibility of future harm to justify pre-enforcement relief. Magaw, 132 F.3d at 279; Bras v. California Pub. Utilities Comm'n, 59 F.3d 869, 873 (9th Cir.1995), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 1084, 116 S.Ct. 800, 133 L.Ed.2d 748 (1996). Still, it is clear that an individual does not have to await the consummation of threatened injury to obtain preventive relief. Rather, if the injury is certainly impending, that is sufficient. Babbitt v. United Farm Workers Union, 442 U.S. 289, 298, 99 S.Ct. 2301, 60 L.Ed.2d 895 (1979).

An association, such as P.R.O., can have standing as a representative of its members. American Fed'n of State, County & Mun. Employees v. Private Indus. Council, 942 F.2d 376, 378 (6th Cir.1991). The association must satisfy three requirements to have standing: (1) Its members would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right; (2) the interests it seeks to protect are germane to the association's purpose; and (3) neither the claim asserted nor the relief sought requires the participation of individual members in the lawsuit. Hunt v. Washington State Apple Adver. Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333, 343, 97 S.Ct. 2434, 53 L.Ed.2d 383 (1977).

Another doctrine which "cluster[s] about Article III" is ripeness. Vander Jagt v. O'Neill, 699 F.2d 1166, 1178-79 (D.C.Cir.1982) (Bork, J., concurring). Ripeness focuses on the timing of the action rather than on the parties who bring the suit. Navegar, Inc. v. United States, 103 F.3d 994, 998 (D.C.Cir.1997). In United Steelworkers, Local 2116 v. Cyclops Corp., 860 F.2d 189, 194-95 (6th Cir.1988), we outlined the factors that a court must weigh in deciding whether to address the issues presented for review; i.e., the hardship to the parties if judicial review is denied at the pre-enforcement stage, the likelihood that the injury alleged by the plaintiff will ever come to pass, and the fitness of the case for judicial resolution at this stage. 4 In the context of a pre-enforcement challenge, a case is ripe for review "only if the probability of the future event occurring is substantial and of 'sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment.' " Magaw, 132 F.3d at 284 (quoting Golden v. Zwickler, 394 U.S. 103, 108, 89 S.Ct. 956, 22 L.Ed.2d 113 (1969)). Thus, the ripeness requirement aims to prevent the court from entangling itself in "abstract disagreements." Thomas v. Union Carbide Agricultural Products Co., 473 U.S. 568, 580, 105...

To continue reading

Request your trial
131 practice notes
  • Bednasek v. Kobach, Case No. 15–9300–JAR–JPO
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Kansas
    • May 4, 2017
    ...of those who purchased and registered handguns in Chicago was a legitimate purpose."); Peoples Rights Org., Inc. v. City of Columbus , 152 F.3d 522, 531 (6th Cir. 1998) ("the governmental interest at stake here is clearly legitimate.").111 Although not discussed by Defendant, the Court is a......
  • Risbridger v. Connelly, No. 5:99-CV-130.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • October 31, 2000
    ...criminal penalties are at stake, for instance, a relatively strict test is warranted." Peoples Rights Org., Inc. v. City of Columbus, 152 F.3d 522, 533 (6th Cir.1998)(citing Village of Hoffman Estates v. Flipside, Hoffman Estates, Inc., 455 U.S. 489, 498-99, 102 S.Ct. 1186, 1193-94, 71 L.Ed......
  • ESI/Employee Sols., L.P. v. City of Dall., CIVIL ACTION NO. 4:19-CV-570-SDJ
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • March 30, 2020
    ...possibility of future harm," Bauer v. Texas, 341 F.3d 352, 357-58 (5th Cir. 2003) (quoting Peoples Rights Org. v. City of Columbus, 152 F.3d 522, 527 (6th Cir. 1998)), "even though the injury-in-fact has not yet been completed," id. (quoting Nat'l Rifle Ass'n of Am. v. Magaw, 132 F.3d 272, ......
  • Roark & Hardee Lp v. City of Austin, No. 06-51670.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • March 27, 2008
    ...possibility of future harm.'" Bauer v. Texas, 341 F.3d 352, 357-58 (5th Cir.2003) (quoting Peoples Rights Org. v. City of Columbus, 152 F.3d 522, 527 (6th The City argues that Plaintiffs do not have standing because they have not suffered a particularized injury-in-fact. With regard to the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
131 cases
  • Bednasek v. Kobach, Case No. 15–9300–JAR–JPO
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Kansas
    • May 4, 2017
    ...of those who purchased and registered handguns in Chicago was a legitimate purpose."); Peoples Rights Org., Inc. v. City of Columbus , 152 F.3d 522, 531 (6th Cir. 1998) ("the governmental interest at stake here is clearly legitimate.").111 Although not discussed by Defendant, the Court is a......
  • Risbridger v. Connelly, No. 5:99-CV-130.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • October 31, 2000
    ...criminal penalties are at stake, for instance, a relatively strict test is warranted." Peoples Rights Org., Inc. v. City of Columbus, 152 F.3d 522, 533 (6th Cir.1998)(citing Village of Hoffman Estates v. Flipside, Hoffman Estates, Inc., 455 U.S. 489, 498-99, 102 S.Ct. 1186, 1193-94, 71 L.Ed......
  • ESI/Employee Sols., L.P. v. City of Dall., CIVIL ACTION NO. 4:19-CV-570-SDJ
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • March 30, 2020
    ...possibility of future harm," Bauer v. Texas, 341 F.3d 352, 357-58 (5th Cir. 2003) (quoting Peoples Rights Org. v. City of Columbus, 152 F.3d 522, 527 (6th Cir. 1998)), "even though the injury-in-fact has not yet been completed," id. (quoting Nat'l Rifle Ass'n of Am. v. Magaw, 132 F.3d 272, ......
  • Roark & Hardee Lp v. City of Austin, No. 06-51670.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • March 27, 2008
    ...possibility of future harm.'" Bauer v. Texas, 341 F.3d 352, 357-58 (5th Cir.2003) (quoting Peoples Rights Org. v. City of Columbus, 152 F.3d 522, 527 (6th The City argues that Plaintiffs do not have standing because they have not suffered a particularized injury-in-fact. With regard to the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT