The U.S. Department of Justice has filed an appeal seeking to overturn a lower court ruling that struck down the ban on interstate transfer of handguns as being unconstitutional. The DoJ filed its opening brief in Mance v. Lynch in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals following a February 11, 2015 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Mance , et al. v. Holder, et al, Civil Action No. 4:14-cv-539-O).
The case stems from an attempt by Andrew and Tracey Hanson to purchase handguns from Fredric Mance, an Arlington, Texas federal firearms licensee (“FFL”). The Hansons are residents of the District of Columbia and are legally eligible to purchase and possess firearms. The only way they could complete the transaction was to pay for the guns in Texas and have Mance transfer the handguns to the only FFL in the District of Columbia who would then complete the sale after collecting a fee of $125 per transfer plus shipping costs. Mance and Hanson brought this action to challenge the federal regulatory regime as it relates to the buying, selling, and transporting of handguns over state lines under 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(a)(3) and 922(b)(3).
Judge Reed O’Connor wrote in his decision that there was no evidence of “founding-era thinking that contemplated that interstate, geography-based, or residency-based firearm restrictions would be acceptable” and that the law “directly burdens law-abiding, responsible citizens who seek to complete otherwise lawful transactions for handguns.”
In its appeal, the DoJ argues under the Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the handgun-transfer provisions are “lawful qualifications on the commercial sale of firearms that do not substantially burden Second Amendment rights, including the core right to defend oneself in one’s home.”
It is interesting to note that in the nominating process to appoint Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder as U.S. Attorney General, when asked by Sen. Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, if she would appeal the Mance decision, she replied that no final decision had been made.
Well, we now know the answer to that question. But the big question remains – what will the Court of Appeals do? And the Supreme Court, should it go that far?