U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Issue Temporary Stay of Illinois “Assault Weapon” and “High-Capacity Magazine” Bans (Wednesday, May 17, 2023, 9:00pm)

Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from gun rights groups to temporarily block laws in Illinois that ban the sale of certain semi-automatic rifles and so-called “high-capacity” magazines, meaning those prohibitions will remain in effect in Illinois for the time being.

The Court issued a one-sentence order that did not explain its reasoning and noted no dissents, which is common for cases on its emergency docket, where cases arrive when the Supreme Court is asked to render decisions about whether to temporarily allow or halt enforcement of laws while the underlying dispute plays out in lower federal courts.

A U.S. District Court in Illinois had earlier ruled in favor of the Illinois state ban and a similar city ordinance from Napierville, IL, in February 2023. Then, in April, the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit denied a request to temporarily block the laws while that District Court decision is appealed. The Supreme Court’s decision not to intervene means that the bans will remain in legal effect pending the resolution of the appeal by the 7th Circuit.  

This case, National Association for Gun Rights v. City of Naperville, will now continue in the appeals court and will likely eventually make its way back to the Supreme Court on the merits at some point in the future.



Gov. McMaster Extends SC Legislative Session, Pending Permitless Open/Concealed Carry Bill Still on the Agenda (Tuesday, May 16, 2023, 5:00pm)

The 2023 South Carolina General Assembly came to a close last week, but Governor McMaster has called the State Legislature back to session so they can discuss and address certain matters, primarily focusing on non-2nd Amendment-related abortion and drug trafficking (fentanyl) bills, but also pertaining to pending legislation regarding “felons in possession”, by which he apparently means S.109 and H.3594, the state Senate and House bills addressing permitless open & concealed carry, both of which reference and address the issue of felons in illegal possession of firearms.

Some “in-the-know” observers, including the NRA’s grass-roots coordinator for the part of the Southeast U.S. that includes South Carolina, have noted that the Governor’s actions seem directed mainly at the non-2nd Amendment issues, and, if the abortion- and drug-related legislation pass before S.109 or H.3594 receive floor votes, the extended 2023 legislative session might end without final passage of the permitless carry bill.  



SC Senate Judiciary Passes Bill to Allow Permitless Open & Concealed Carry (Wednesday, May 10, 2023, 3:00pm)

In an unexpected move, yesterday the Judiciary Committee of the South Carolina Senate held a vote on S.109, the Senate version of the “Constitutional Carry” bill which would allow open and concealed carry of firearms without a permit within the state. The Bill passed by a vote of 12-11. The version that was voted out of Committee contains the NRA-backed language which would still retain the existing carry permit system, meaning that it would not affect any such currently valid permits that were issued under the existing system, which would allow for reciprocity in other states that require non-citizens of those states to hold a valid concealed carry permit in their home state in order to carry in their state.

The Bill has now been sent to the Senate floor for further consideration and an eventual vote by the entire Senate. If passed by the full Senate, the next step would be a reconciliation of the House and Senate versions of the bills as passed, and then a final vote in both chambers on the reconciled language.



North Carolina Repeal of Handgun Permitting System Becomes Law (Thursday, March 30, 2023, 12:00pm)

The previously reported North Carolina legislation (see, Feb. 27, 2023, 1:00pm entry on this page) that repealed that state’s system requiring local sheriffs to issue a permit for every commercial handgun purchase has become law.

The state legislature voted last month to enact the bill, which gets rid of North Carolina’s longstanding permit system requiring sheriffs to perform character evaluations and criminal history checks of pistol applicants, but Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill Friday, claiming it would make it easier for “domestic abusers and other dangerous people” to access handguns and make it harder for law enforcement to stop those people from committing violent crimes. Following this action, the state’s GOP-led legislature voted yesterday (Wed., Mar. 29) to override Gov. Cooper’s veto of the measure.

North Carolina’s permit repeal takes effect immediately.



Credit Card Companies Abandon Plan to Track Firearm/Ammunition Purchases (Saturday, Mar. 18, 2023, 2:00pm)

It was reported last week that the credit card companies that had announced plans to implement a merchant category code (MCC) specific to gun and ammunition stores are abandoning those plans. Opponents to the plan had been very vocal in arguing that such a system would essentially create a backdoor tracking registry of people purchasing firearms, ammunition, and related items, and had generated strong political action in opposition to the announced plans of the credit card companies, which included the issuance of a group letter by twenty-four (24) state attorneys general threatening legal action if the plan were instituted, and several bills introduced in state legislatures that would ban such purchase tracking.

In response to these legal moves, American Express (Amex), Visa, MasterCard, and Discover have all put on hold their plans to create and assign an MMC specifically for vendors of firearms and ammunition. Both Visa and MasterCard made formal announcements that they were “pausing” implementation of the new code, specifically citing the legal pushback as the reason for abandoning their plans, while Discover made a relatively “low key” announcement that the new proposed merchant code (MCC 5723) has been pulled from its upcoming software update for merchant processing systems.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who led the group of state attorneys general that submitted the aforementioned letter to Visa and MasterCard, said in a statement that “Visa and MasterCard came to the correct conclusion. However, they shouldn’t just ‘pause’ their implementation of this plan — they should end it definitively.”



President Biden Issues Executive Order in Furtherance of Gun Control Goals (Tuesday, Mar. 14, 2023, 7:00pm)

Earlier today, President Joe Biden issued an Executive Order directing various executive agencies to undertake actions to further his administration’s gun control objectives. Stating that its goal was to curb gun violence, the Executive Order includes provisions aimed at increasing the number of background checks to buy guns, promoting more secure firearms storage and ensuring that U.S. law enforcement agencies are “getting the most out of” the recently-enacted gun control law known as the Safer Communities Act.

Specifically, the Executive Order directs the Attorney General to increase background checks by cracking down on gun sellers who don’t perform them when required and to release more information about federally licensed firearms dealers who violate existing laws, with the goal of “moving us as close as we can to universal background checks without new legislation,” as Pres. Biden publicly stated in his press conference. The Order also directs federal agencies to improve public awareness and promote the use of “red-flag” laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders, which are designed to expedite the confiscation of lawfully owned firearms from citizens by circumventing the sometimes time-consuming method of full due process within the existing court system. Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice Department sent out more than $200 million to help states and the District of Columbia administer red-flag laws and other crisis-intervention programs.

The Order also directs the Pentagon to “develop and implement principles to further firearm and public safety practices through the Department of Defense’s acquisition of firearms” and instructs the Federal Trade Commission to issue a public report analyzing how gun manufacturers market to minors and use military images to market to the general public.

President Biden’s Order also mandates better reporting of ballistics data from federal law enforcement for a clearinghouse that would allow federal, state and local law enforcement to match shell casings to guns. Currently, local and state law enforcement agencies are not required to report such ballistics data, and it is questionable what effect a federal executive order will have on forcing state and local to comply with such a mandate.

The administration claims that this unilateral action by the President does not change U.S. government policy, but rather directs federal agencies to ensure compliance with existing laws and procedures — a typical feature of Executive Orders issued by Presidents when they confront the limits of their own power to act without cooperation from Congress.  In his statement announcing issuance of the Executive Order, Pres. Biden seems to indicate that he realizes the limitations of this action, by noting the following: “Let’s be clear: None of this absolves Congress from the responsibility of acting, to pass universal background checks, eliminate gun manufacturer immunity from liability. And I’m determined once again to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”

So far, no legal challenges have been announced to this action by the Executive Branch, but it is anticipated that such challenges will arise as the various federal agencies start to enact regulations under the directives set forth in the Order.



NC House Approves Bill to Repeal Permitting Requirement for Pistol Purchases (Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, 1:00pm)

Even though it has little direct legal significance in the state of South Carolina, it is worth noting that the North Caroline House recently struck a significant victory for Second Amendment rights advocates by approving a bill to repeal the state’s pistol purchase permit requirement. The measure now heads to the N.C. Senate for reconciliation with a similar measure that was previously passed as part of a broader bill package.

The Senate version of the bill repeals the permitting system, which currently requires approval from one of the state’s 100 county sheriffs before a citizen can purchase a pistol, as well as including measures to allow concealed carry of firearms at religious services that share locations with private or charter schools, and to launch a two-year firearm safe storage awareness initiative.

Even if both the N.C. House and Senate versions of the bills are reconciled and signed into law, pistol purchases within the state would still be require approval through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System run by the FBI.

Supporters of the change in state law have cited complaints about the slow pace of permit approvals and support for repeal from the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association. At present, North Carolina is the only southern state that still requires its citizens obtain a permit to purchase a pistol.



South Carolina House of Representatives Passes Bill to Allow Permitless Open & Concealed Carry (Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023, 10:30am)

The Republican-controlled South Carolina House of Representatives yesterday (Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023) voted overwhelmingly to allow lawful firearm owners to partake in open or concealed carry of handguns without a state permit.

The bill, known as H.3594, titled the Constitutional Carry / Second Amendment Preservation Act of 2023, with the stated intended purpose of ensuring that South Carolina citizens who can lawfully own a firearm will have the right to carry it open or concealed, except with limited restrictions, passed in the S.C. House by a vote of 90-30. It closely resembles laws in 25 other states that allow some form of constitutional carry.

The bill, as passed, still restricts people from bringing guns into detention centers, courthouses, polling places, government offices, school athletic events, schools, religious sanctuaries and hospitals or doctor’s offices, among other locations. On-duty law enforcement, Armed Forces, National Guard, state militia and members of the judiciary are exempt from those restrictions. After some discussion, lawmakers added public defenders and county clerks of court to this list, but expressly barred them from carrying concealed weapons into correctional facilities.

The measure also appears to effectively lower the age at which South Carolinians can carry a concealed gun, by allowing permitless open or concealed carry by anyone who can legally possess the carried firearm. Current state law allows anyone 18 or older to purchase a firearm, including handguns, but under the current state program concealed weapons permits are only available to people older than 21.

The bill also increases penalties for felons in illegal possession of a firearm.

The fate of this pending law now falls to the Senate, where a similar proposal was rejected two years ago, and where it doesn’t appear that any comparative companion bill to H.3594 has yet to have been introduced.



ATF Pistol Brace Rule Officially Published, Immediately Met with Lawsuits and Congressional Opposition (Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, 1:00pm)

As expected, the Final Rule issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) on pistol bracing devices was published in the Federal Register last week, on Jan. 31, 2023, making it an officially promulgated regulation, and starting the tolling of the 120 day “grace period” for current owners of rifle-caliber pistols equipped with braces to either remove the braces, destroy the firearm, or register their now-designated “short barreled rifles” (SBRs) as firearms subject to the National Firearm Act (NFA) without having to pay the NFA-required tax stamp.

As also anticipated, this action has spawned at least two lawsuits challenging the ATF’s action. The Firearm Policy Coalition (FPC) has filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas on behalf of two Texas gun owners, William Mock and Christopher Lewis, who are braced pistol owners. This lawsuit, Mock v. Garland, argues that the ATF and Department of Justice are violating both the Administrative Procedure Act and the U.S. Constitution.

In announcing the lawsuit, Cody J. Wisniewski, FPC’s Senior Attorney for Constitutional Litigation, took issue with the enforcement agency issuing a regulation that effectively creates a new law — a job more appropriate for the legislative branch. “Federal agencies do not have the power to write new laws, and yet the ATF continues to attempt to expand its authority using the federal rulemaking process. This ‘rule’ is, in effect, a federal law that will transform millions of peaceable people into felons overnight simply for owning a firearm that has [previously] been lawful to own.”

A second federal suit has been filed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation in the Eastern District of Texas. This lawsuit, Watterson v. ATF, also argues that the Department of Justice cannot be allowed to rewrite federal statutes by bureaucratic dictate and decide to turn millions of law-abiding Americans into criminals guilty of a felony, noting that the Constitution gives Congress — not executive agencies — the legislative power to amend laws.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., U.S. Senators Roger Marshall (R-KS) and John Kennedy (R-LA) have cosponsored a Congressional Review Act resolution to prevent the ATF’s new Pistol Brace rule from taking effect. They have also introduced the Stop Harassing Owners of Rifles Today (SHORT) Act, which will repeal some of the more archaic elements of the National Firearms Act, including its regulation of short-barreled rifles.

“Finalization of this pistol brace rule represents the worst fears of gun owners across the country,” said Marshall in a statement announcing these 2 legislative actions. “The SHORT Act will protect Americans from the anti-2nd Amendment gun registry that the ATF is abusing the National Firearms Act to create. This Congress, I challenge my colleagues in both chambers to make protecting Americans’ 2nd Amendment Rights a priority and sign onto this legislation that will stop the ATF’s pistol brace rule in its tracks.”





(click link below)