Several years ago, a couple from Washington D.C. attempted to purchase a handgun from an FFL dealer in Texas, but current federal law prohibits residents of one state from acquiring a handgun in another state. They took the case to federal court, and won and the district level, but the government then appealed to the Fifth Circuit; the ruling in that case has just been handed down, and the prohibition on interstate handgun sales was upheld.
The plaintiffs in the case, Frederic Russell Mance, Tracey Ambeau Hanson, Andrew Hanson, and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, brought the case to court and convinced U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor that the Gun Control Act of 1968’s provision banning interstate handgun sales violated both the Second Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Second Amendment. The government then appealed to the Fifth Circuit, where ultimately both claims were snuffed out.
In the opinion, the court stated that “There are more than 123,000 FFLs nationwide. It is unrealistic to expect that each of them can become, and remain, knowledgeable about the handgun laws of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and the local laws within the 50 states … FFLs are not engaged in the practice of law, and we do not expect even an attorney in one state to master of the laws of 49 other states in a particular area. Additionally, the compilation on which the district court relied is only updated annually.”
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As much as this makes sense logically, it’s up to the FLL dealer to determine if they want to sell a product to someone of a particular state. Some states may have more or less stringent laws when it comes to gun ownership, but if an FLL decides that he/she wants to do so, why prohibit them from doing that?
Many of them may not, but should that not be their own choice, and not something determined for them by the federal government? FFLs can already sell long guns to residents of others states if they so choose, but why are handguns in a category all to themselves?
All purchases through an FFL dealer must undergo the same background check regardless of location. If a Virginia resident buys a gun in Virginia, he or she goes through the NICS check just like someone in any other state. Now, Virginia does have a State Police background check form as well, so the process is twice as thorough, though some other states don’t have that.
Given that fact, one may be convinced that a ban in interstate sales is the answer, but I’m not convinced. It’s a liberty taken from people under the guises of “you don’t know the law.” There’s an assumption that no dealer would want to sell to residents of other states, and that they would not take the time to understand the law of acquiring a handgun in other states.
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It’s true that there are 50 states and the District of Columbia that have differing laws on handgun purchase, but the differences in law should not be a justification for an outright ban. It should be the responsibility of the FLL and the purchaser to know and follow the laws.
There is also one argument that I find unconvincing, and it comes from Bearing Arms. Their reporter claims that Congress has the right to restrict interstate handgun sales because of the Constitution’s commerce clause. However, that’s not the purpose of the commerce clause, far from it.
The true nature of the commerce clause, as discussed by Mark Levin in The Liberty Amendments, was to facilitate interstate commerce, not to thwart it. States at the time of the Constitutional convention were thwarting others from being able to conduct business with each other, but the commerce clause sought to rectify that by prohibiting states from interfering with commerce.
So the idea that a prohibition on a commercial transaction in a different state is in line with the true intent of the commerce clause is an unconvincing point of argument.
At this point, it is unknown if they will appeal to the Supreme Court, but it they do I anticipate that the result would be the same. The only foreseeable way to overturn this is to have Congress repeal the GCA of 1968 for good.
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