Newsletter: A Potential Shift in the Ninth Circuit

Change may be brewing in the left-leaning Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which oversees the nation’s largest state and some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation.

This week, the circuit rejected a government request for an en banc review of a ruling against California’s expansive youth gun advertising ban. If that’s the start of a new trend, it could be good news for gun-rights activists and bad news for lawmakers. I explain in a piece for members why that is and why the trend may not actually develop.

That wasn’t the only legal news. It wasn’t even the only legal news out of California, which saw part of its gun industry liability law blocked.

But unfinished gun part makers and at-home gun builders were dealt legal blows this week, too. Polymer80 settled a lawsuit with Baltimore while Philadelphia’s “ghost gun” ban was upheld in spite of Pennsylvania’s preemption law.

We also got another glimpse into what Americans think of the Supreme Court’s recent pro-gun landmark ruling in Bruen. Turns out quite a lot of them like it. That’s despite the Court getting low marks overall.

Plus, we’re still waiting on a verdict in the NRA corruption case. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to listen to this week’s podcast episode where I describe my recent time in the Manhattan courtroom where a jury is set to decide the NRA’s fate. And check out my members’ piece examining whether the nation’s largest gun-rights group can recover regardless of what verdict they hand down.

16-year-old Lola Fitzgerald practices her skeet shooting skills
16-year-old Lola Fitzgerald practices her skeet shooting skills / Jay Fitzgerald

Ninth Circuit Denies California Appeal Over Youth Shooting Sports Law
By Stephen Gutowski

The full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will not hear an appeal to a ruling against the Golden State’s law banning gun ads that could appeal to minors.

Judges on the court refused the state’s request for an en banc hearing on Tuesday. None of the court’s 29 judges voted to take Junior Sports Magazines Inc. v. Bonta to the full panel. That leaves the case against AB 2571, which bans gun ads that could be “attractive to minors,” in the hands of the three-judge panel that found it likely unconstitutional last year.

California has had good luck getting rehearings and reversals of rulings against their gun laws in front of the full court in recent decades. So, plaintiffs in this case celebrated the court’s decision not to take up the case.

Click here to read more.

Handguns on display at SHOT Show 2024
Handguns on display at SHOT Show 2024 / Stephen Gutowski

Analysis: Could Ninth Circuit Inaction Change Gun-Rights Plaintiffs’ Fortunes? [Member Exclusive]
By Stephen Gutowski

California failed to convince the Ninth Circuit to review a ruling against one of its gun laws this week. Was that a one-off decision, or could it be the start of a new trend?

On Tuesday, the appeals court rejected a request from Attorney General Rob Bonta (D.) to take Junior Sports Magazines Inc. v. Bonta to an en banc review. That would have likely resulted in the September ruling against California’s ban on marketing that could appeal to minors being overturned. Instead, not a single judge on the Ninth Circuit voted to take up the appeal.

“It seems like forever since the Ninth Circuit has refused to hear a gun case en banc,” Alan Gottlieb, head of plaintiff Second Amendment Foundation, told The Reload. “Hopefully, this is a new trend.”

If that trend does develop, it would be a significant boon to gun-rights plaintiffs.

If you’re a Reload Member, click here for more. If not, buy a membership today for exclusive access to this and hundreds of other pieces!

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US flag and California state flag in front of a palm tree in Monterey, CA.
The California state flag flies on a pole below the American flag / Photo by Tina Chelidze on Unsplash

Federal Judge Blocks California Law Allowing Suits Against Out-of-State Gunmakers
By Jake Fogleman

California cannot sue gun businesses for selling “abnormally dangerous” products, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

US District Judge Andrew Schopler issued a preliminary injunction against a portion of a California law that allows the Attorney General, local government officials, and even private residents to sue members of the firearms industry that manufacture or sell “abnormally dangerous” guns and accessories. Schopler found that the law attempted to regulate out-of-state commercial activities and was likely unconstitutional.

“When a state law like this completely bans—or even just ‘directly affects’— commercial ‘transactions that take place entirely outside of the state’s borders,’ it plainly contravenes the dormant Commerce Clause,” Schopler, a Joe Biden appointee, wrote in National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) v. Bonta. “This is so even if the regulated ‘commerce has effects within the State’ of California.”

Click here to read the full story.

A pair of handguns made from Polymer80 kits at the 2021 Maker's Match
A pair of handguns made from Polymer80 kits at the 2021 Maker’s Match / Stephen Gutowski

Polymer80 to Pay $1.2 Million to Baltimore in ‘Ghost Gun’ Lawsuit Settlement
By Jake Fogleman

One of the nation’s leading sellers of homemade gun kits was dealt a blow in court this week.

Baltimore city officials announced Wednesday that the Nevada-based unfinished firearm parts manufacturer Polymer80 has agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle claims that guns made with its parts, which opponents label “ghost guns” because they lack traceable serial numbers, have been fueling violent crime in the city. The settlement terms will also permanently prohibit Polymer80 from advertising in Maryland or selling any of its products to Maryland residents, including those who attempt to purchase them in other states.

Click here to continue reading.

A close up of the Supreme Court building
A close up of the Supreme Court building / Stephen Gutowski

Poll: Pro-Gun Supreme Court Ruling Remains Broadly Popular
By Stephen Gutowski

Nearly two-thirds of Americans approve of the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision recognizing an individual’s right to carry a gun for self-defense.

Those are the results from the latest Marquette Law School poll released on Wednesday. It found 64 percent of Americans favored the core holding in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to carry a handgun in public. Those findings align with the school’s previous polling that found widespread support for the ruling.

“A solid majority, 64%, favor Bruen’s affirmation of a right to possess a firearm outside the home, while 36% are opposed to the decision,” the school said in a press release. “There has been little change in these views in polls from September 2023 to the present.”

Click here to read the full piece.

A table of 3D-printed firearms
A table of 3D-printed firearms / Stephen Gutowski

Pennsylvania Appeals Court Upholds Philadelphia ‘Ghost Gun’ Ban
By Jake Fogleman

The City of Brotherly Love can continue to enforce its local ban on unfinished gun parts and homemade guns, a divided state appeals court ruled Friday.

In a 4-3 decision, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania determined that a 2021 Philadelphia ordinance outlawing the possession, use, transfer, or manufacture of homemade guns and gun parts by persons not licensed to sell firearms is permissible under state law. The court said that even though Pennsylvania law preempts local gun restrictions, unfinished gun parts are not actually firearms, and Philadelphia can regulate them.

“In sum, there can be no doubt that, as understood through extant case, [Pennsylvania’s preemption] statute fully occupies the field of firearms regulation,” Judge Ellen Ceisler (D.) wrote for the majority in Gun Owners of America v. Philadelphia. “Even so, it does not follow that this Ordinance is preempted. By its very terms, the Ordinance does not regulate firearms per se.”

Click here to read the rest.

Podcast: The View From the Courtroom at the NRA Corruption Trial
By Stephen Gutowski

This week, Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman interviews me about what it was like in the courtroom as New York’s civil trial against the NRA and its leaders reached closing arguments.

Thanks to the support of Reload Members, I’ve been able to cover much of the case from inside the Manhattan court where it’s happening. This is vital because there is no live stream of the proceedings and the transcripts aren’t made available until well after the events of the day, if at all. So, spending the resources to be up there is vital to understanding what is actually happening in a case that will affect the future of the nation’s largest gun-rights group, which has received only modest coverage from major media outlets.

Plus, I interviewed Jake about what happened to the rebranded effort to ban AR-15s and other guns in New Mexico.

You can listen to the show on your favorite podcasting app or by clicking here. Video of the episode is available on our YouTube channel.

A logo in the NRA booth at the 2024 Great American Outdoor Show
A logo in the NRA booth at the 2024 Great American Outdoor Show / Stephen Gutowski

Analysis: Can the NRA Recover? [Member Exclusive]
By Stephen Gutowski

A jury is currently considering the fate of the charges against the NRA and its top leadership. Whatever they decide, it’s worth asking if the nation’s largest gun-rights group can ever reach its former heights under any outcome.

The NRA, former CEO Wayne LaPierre, and the other defendants offered up their closing arguments while the New York Attorney General’s office tried to counter them on Thursday. Judge Joel Cohen then read out his instructions to the jury on how to decide the dispute on Friday. The six New Yorkers then headed back to deliberate and didn’t return.

They’ll be back at it on Tuesday. It’s possible–perhaps probable–that they will find the NRA and its leadership didn’t properly administer the non-profit’s funds. They may then recommend the judge force LaPierre and the other individual defendants to repay tens of millions to the NRA as well as ban them from working at any non-profit again. After that, the judge could appoint an overseer to scrutinize the NRA’s governing structure and operations.

If that happens, the gun-rights group will undergo what’s likely to be a significant internal makeover.

If you’re a Reload Member, click here to read more. If not, buy a membership today for exclusive access to this piece and hundreds of others!

Outside The Reload

The LaPierre legacy | The Spectator | By Stephen Gutowski

Colorado Democrats’ attempt to reduce gun violence is colliding with their criminal justice reform ethos | Colorado Sun | By Jesse Paul

Louisiana Senate passes permitless concealed carry bill | AP News | By Sara Cline

The $50 Device That Turns Handguns Into Automatic Weapons | The Wall Street Journal | By Zusha Elinson and Scott Calvert

Football, ice hockey … shooting? Finland hopes hobby will boost national defence | The Guardian | By Miranda Bryant

Missouri Lawmakers Won’t Move Bill Repealing Some ‘Gun-Free Zones’ After KC Shooting | Bearing Arms | By Cam Edwards

Suspect in shooting of Minnesota officers and medic had violent past, lost right to own guns | The Star Tribune | By Paul Walsh and Stephen Montemayor

Hawaii’s Butterfly Knife Ban Will Get Full Ninth Circuit Review | Bloomberg Law | By Ufonobong Umanah

That’s it for this week in guns.

If you want to hear expert analysis of these stories and more, make sure you grab a Reload membership to get our exclusive analysis newsletter every Sunday!

I’ll see you all next week.

Stephen Gutowski
The Reload

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