Draper v. Healey | Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Draper v. Healey

Under Massachusetts regulatory law, all handguns sold by gun dealers must have chamber load indicators (a device which alerts a user that a bullet is in the firing chamber). This safety feature reduces unintentional shootings by helping to prevent the discharge of a gun that may occur when a user misperceives a gun to be unloaded. Between December 2013 and May 2014, various dealer and consumer plaintiffs, including Massachusetts resident Robert Draper, sent letters to the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey inquiring whether the Generations 3 and 4 Glock pistols (“Gen3/4 Glock pistols”) violated this regulation. The Attorney General informed them that these specified handguns “lack[ed] an effective load indicator or magazine safety disconnect” and were thus noncompliant. In June 2014, plaintiffs filed suit against the Attorney General in her official capacity, claiming that the regulation was both unconstitutionally vague and in violation of their Second Amendment rights.

In March 2015, the District Court granted the Attorney General's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's challenge, concluding that the regulation was neither unconstitutionally vague nor in violation of the Second Amendment. Not only did the language of the regulation provide clear guidance for gun dealers, but plaintiffs had also conceded that there were many other “series” of handgun models, besides the contended Gen3/4 Glock pistols, which had load indicators and were thus available to lawfully purchase. In July 2016, the plaintiffs nevertheless appealed this decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

The Brady Center filed amicus briefs written by Proskauer Rose, LLP in both courts; in October 2014 to the District Court and in January 2016 to the First Circuit, in support of the regulation. The briefs presented robust evidence that load indicators reduce accidental and unintentional shootings, as even responsible gun owners can misperceive a gun to be unloaded, and thus save lives. Recent findings by both the U.S. Government Accountability Office and John Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health found that nearly a quarter of accidental firearms fatalities could have been prevented by the inclusion of a load indicator.

In June 2016, the First Circuit reaffirmed the District Court's decision that the regulation was constitutional. The Plaintiffs filed for rehearing or en banc review in July, which was denied by the court later that month.