Ohio Attorney General

Attorney General Dave Yost Joins Other States In Effort to Bolster the Right to Keep and Bear Arms

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has included Ohio in two multistate efforts to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to bring clarity to federal court rulings about the ability of citizens to exercise their constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

Yost joined 21 state attorneys general and governors in a brief outlining why the Supreme Court should review a lawsuit challenging a New Jersey law that requires those seeking a permit to carry a gun outside their home or business to demonstrate a special need to do so.

In a separate case, Yost joined 19 state attorneys general and governors asking the high court to review a challenge to California law that effectively prohibits the sale of handguns by requiring them to include a technology that would “microstamp” unique identification markings on ejected cartridge cases, even though no handguns with that technology are commercially available. The law has had the effect of banning the sale of all semiautomatic handguns designed and marketed since 2013.

“Americans shouldn't have to prove to the government that they ‘need’ to exercise their right to freedom of speech – or any other constitutional right, including the Second Amendment,” Yost said. “And they can’t exercise their right to keep and bear arms if the state prohibits them from acquiring arms in the first place.”

“Despite recent Supreme Court rulings establishing that keeping and bearing arms is an individual right guaranteed by the Constitution, a number of states have enacted laws that, in effect, make this right difficult or impossible to exercise. Not only that, but some of these laws make criminals of citizens who merely seek to exercise the freedoms promised to them in the Bill of Rights.”

The New Jersey case is Thomas R. Rogers and the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, Inc. v. Gurbir S. Grewal, et al. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of a New Jersey resident who applied for a permit to carry a handgun outside his home or business. The request was rejected by authorities on the ground that he failed to demonstrate a “justifiable need.”

New Jersey courts have ruled that the law requires that residents “specify in detail the urgent necessity for self-protection, as evidenced by specific threats or previous attacks, which demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life that cannot be avoided by means other than by issuance of a permit to carry a handgun,” and that “generalized fears for personal safety are inadequate.” Since few New Jersey residents can meet this requirement, in effect they are prohibited from bearing arms outside their home or business.

In subsequent appeals of this case, courts have upheld the rejections, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

The other case, Ivan Pena, et al., v. Martin Horan, challenges the California “microstamping” law. Under California law, all guns are considered “unsafe” unless they meet certain requirements such as having a loaded chamber indicator that signifies that the firearm is loaded, and a magazine-disconnect to prevent the gun from firing if the magazine has been removed. Because the majority of semiauto pistols sold in the United States do not have these features, the roster of pistols that could be acquired lawfully in California was highly restricted.

In 2013, the law was made more stringent by barring the sale of any new model of pistol lacking a means of microstamping a unique identifier on each ejected cartridge. This microstamping requirement is the first of its kind, and several major gun manufacturers have said there is no practical way to comply with it. No semiauto pistols are available in the United States that would comply with this requirement.

The effect of the law has been to restrict the number of guns legally available in California even more. Plaintiffs in the case argued that these requirements are an unconstitutional burden on the exercise of their Second Amendment right. But as in the New Jersey case, plaintiffs’ arguments were rejected by appeals courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In both briefs, Yost and allied states ask the high court to devise clear limits on state laws that inhibit exercise of the right to keep and bear arms.

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