District Courts across the country are striking down federal firearm statutes.

The Federal Docket

November 22, 2022

Since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in New York State Rifle v. Bruen, where the Court held that firearm regulations must be consistent with firearm regulations as they existed at the time of the Constitution’s ratification, district courts across the country have applied the new framework in Bruen to strike down several criminal firearm statutes as unconstitutional. Most recently, courts have struck down federal statutes prohibiting possession of firearms with obliterated or altered serial numbers, possession of a firearm by a person under indictment, and possession of a firearm by a person subject to a domestic restraining order.

Regarding 18 USC 922(n), which criminalizes possessing a firearm while under indictment, there have been at least two orders finding that statute unconstitutional, one from a district court in the Western District of Texas and another from the Western District of Oklahoma.

Another order from the Western District of Texas struck down 922(g)(8), which criminalizes possessing a firearm while under a domestic restraining order. On the other side of the country, in the Southern District of West Virginia, the district court held that 922(k), which criminalizes possessing a firearm with no serial number, was also unconstitutional, though the court held that 922(g)(1), which criminalizes possession of a firearm by a felon, is constitutional.

These orders all share one thing in common–the district court in each case held that the government had the burden of coming forward with evidence showing that the regulation in question, whether prohibiting altered serial numbers or barring certain people from possessing a firearm, was either in existence at the time the 2nd amendment was ratified or that there are historical regulations that are analogous to the challenged regulation. By grounding the inquiry in historical terms, the government in each case failed to provide examples of regulations in the 18th century that resembled those challenged today.

Click here to read the trial court’s order.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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