Military-style assault weapons have been used repeatedly in mass shootings, including in Newtown, Aurora, and Chattanooga. Recognizing the dangers posed by these weapons, numerous states and municipalities have passed laws regulating their distribution and possession. The Brady Center, in conjunction with law firms like Covington & Burling LLP and WilmerHale assists local governments to defend these laws from attacks.
After witnessing the horror of the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, several states across the country took action to help stop gun violence in their cities, towns, and communities. New York acted first by passing the SAFE Act in January 2013, which requires background checks for all gun and ammunition purchases, regulates the possession of high-capacity magazines and assault weapons, and strengthens penalties for certain gun offenses, among other provisions.
Connecticut passed a similar law in April 2013 expanding the state’s assault weapons restriction and prohibiting possession of high-capacity magazines, and requiring background checks on all gun sales. Maryland followed with a new fingerprinting and licensing requirement for first-time handgun buyers, regulations on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and new penalties for gun crimes. Finally, Colorado established background checks for all gun sales and created regulations on high-capacity magazines.
The corporate gun lobby quickly filed challenges to the new laws. Each of the lawsuits, filed between March and September 2013, alleges that the laws violate the Second Amendment, along with other constitutional provisions.
The Brady Center assisted each state, advising state attorneys, and filing amicus briefs with the help of our pro bono partners. The gun lobby was unsuccessful in federal trial courts, as judges across the country disagreed with their reasoning, and accepted arguments made by the states and by the Brady Center in amicus briefs in support of the laws. The NY SAFE Act was upheld in a December 2013 decision, following a Brady brief submitted in June 2013 with assistance from attorneys with the firm Sidley Austin. The similar Connecticut law was upheld in January 2014, following a Brady brief filed with assistance from the firm White & Case in October 2013. A federal judge ruled in August 2014 in favor of Maryland’s law, which Brady supported with a brief in February 2014 with assistance from Covington & Burling. A judge also upheld Colorado’s law in June 2014, although the procedure in the case did not allow for the filing of amicus briefs.
Each decision has now been appealed to federal circuit courts. Brady submitted briefs in support of New York and Connecticut’s laws in August 2014, Maryland’s law in January 2015, and Colorado’s in April 2015. Rulings in all four cases are pending.