Alas, “One Gun” isn’t just a clever nickname.
New Jersey’s One Gun law effectively limits the number of firearms a person can purchase in the Garden State to one per month. The National Rifle Association — along with the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, Inc. and Bob’s Little Sport Shop — challenged that law, arguing that it was pre-empted by federal law and deprived gun buyers of due process.
Last week, a unanimous Third Circuit Court of Appeals panel denied the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction of the law and affirmed the district court’s decision to dismiss the case.
A state law is preempted when it conflicts with federal law. Courts, however, start with the assumption that Congress did not intend to preempt state police powers unless that was Congress’ clear purpose. Here, the Third Circuit found that 15 U.S.C. § 5001, which prohibits states from banning sales of B-B and air guns, did not bar states from regulating the sales of those guns in any way. Because the One Gun Law regulated, but did not prohibit the sale of B-B and air guns, it was not preempted.
The plaintiffs were similarly unsuccessful in their due process claim. To state a deprivation of procedural due process, a litigant must allege that it were deprived of an interest “encompassed within the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection of ‘life, liberty, or property,’” and that available procedures “did not provide ‘due process of law.’” The Third Circuit concluded that One Gun Law’s exemptions did not violate due process because — even if they had a property interest at stake — the plaintiffs did not demonstrate a deprivation of that interest.
After the Newton shootings, many states are committed to implementing new restrictions on firearms. If you plan on challenging those new laws within the Third Circuit’s jurisdiction, keep in mind that due process will probably be a losing argument.
- Association New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs v. Governor of the State of New Jersey (FindLaw’s CaseLaw)
- Second Circuit Certifies Gun License Question to State Court (FindLaw’s Second Circuit Blog)
- Seventh Circuit: Illinois Gun Law Unconstitutional (FindLaw’s Seventh Circuit Blog)