By Roger J. Katz, Attorney at Law and Stephen L. D’Andrilli
Prelude to comprehensive analysis of the U.S. Court of appeals for the D.C. Circuit case, Wrenn vs. District of Columbia
New York, NY -(Ammoland.com)- The decision handed down very recently, in Wrenn vs. District of Columbia, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 13348 (D.C. Cir. July 25, 2017), supporting the right of the people to keep and bear arms, would not have been possible were it not for the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, District of Columbia vs. Heller, 554 U.S. 570; 128 S. Ct. 2783; 171 L. Ed. 2d 637 (2008).
Justice Antonin Scalia’s glorious and sublime legacy will forever be tied to that one singularly important case: a case that stands as a living testament to Justice Scalia’s service to and his great love for this Nation and for its people.
In that singular, seminal case, District of Columbia vs. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, Justice Scalia threw down the gauntlet at those malevolent forces that seek to tear down the fabric of our Free Republic as they whittle away at the Nation’s sacred Second Amendment. They shall not have an easy time of it as the Second Amendment now stands front in center in the Nation’s psyche as a meaningful reminder to those who seek to disassemble our Nation and who seek to tear down and reconfigure our Bill of Rights out of all semblance to that as conceived by the framers of it.
They will learn: our Bill of Rights and, especially, our Second Amendment, will not be toyed with.
Through Heller three points are made abundantly clear.
- One, the right of the people to keep and bear arms is no longer to be dismissed as a subordinate right. The right expressed is fundamental, second in importance to no other right that comprises the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution.
- Two, the right, as codified in the Second Amendment, is capable of vindication and shall ultimately be vindicated in our Courts of law when Government, whether State or Federal, dares blithely to trample upon it.
- And, three our Nation stands preeminent above all other Nations on this Earth. The founders of our Nation took great pains to establish that such Government they happen to form shall serve—must serve—at the behest of and at the pleasure of the Nation’s people, responsive to and responsible to the Nation’s people. The founders of our Nation forged that understanding in the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution. The Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights provides the mechanism to make that fact poignantly clear to anyone or any group who might disagree with that idea and who would dare wish to test the resolve of the American people.
Tyranny cannot arise where the citizenry stands armed against the imposition of it. Implicit in the language of the Second Amendment is the idea the individual’s existence as an individual, separate and apart from any group affiliation, remains always sacrosanct and inviolate. Any threat to individuality constitutes a threat to the sanctity of one’s personal security and well-being—a threat to one’s personal integrity. Thus, the language of the Second Amendment also implies the right of the individual to take responsibility for his own life, his own protection, his own personal safety and well-being. Government cannot do this, and the law makes clear that it is not Government’s duty or responsibility to do this. It is not Government’s duty or responsibility to protect the security and integrity of the individual, and case law makes this point clear. But, in turn, this means the Government must not intrude on one’s life. Each of us, in this Nation, has the right to be free from Government interference and meddling. Each of us has the right to protect the integrity of his person—of his self—from the tyranny of Government and from threats posed to one’s self by others who would dare do one harm.
No other Country will recognize or acknowledge these sacred truths. We know this because no other Country has codified in its own constitution or in any other legal writing of that Country the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
Contrary to notions promulgated by propagandists or apologists for restricting the exercise of the fundamental and natural right of the people to keep and bear arms, this right is not archaic. It is not anachronistic. It is not to be construed, as some ignorant or ignoble people may wish perhaps, to convey it, as mere anomaly, or peculiarity, or curiosity, or annoyance. It is the very instantiation of the sovereignty, sanctity, and inviolability of the individual self.
The right of the people to keep and bear arms is, therefore, as meaningful and purposeful today as it was in the day the founders of our Nation codified and enshrined this sacred natural, preeminent, fundamental right in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution.
The founders of our Nation’s federal Government knew that the forces that seek to waylay a Nation’s people—to crush a Nation’s people into submission—lie ominously about—secretly, silently, malevolently. The founders of our Nation therefore sought a mechanism to fervently prevent or, at least, to forestall the subjugation of a Nation’s people—to forestall or prevent the subjugation of a people from the greatest and gravest and most insidious threat existent to our Nation’s people—a threat posed not from outside the Nation—but from the bowels within it. They sought to create an insurmountable hurdle to those secretive, powerful, evil forces that might seek then as now, the creation of a one world government—a government seemingly promoting the well-being of the planet’s people, but intent on crushing everyone, for the benefit of a few. Thus, our Nation’s founders drafted a short but prominent statement reminding those who may seek to destroy the American people, in body, mind, and spirit, and who may seek to dismantle this Nation State, that they will have a difficult time of it—that they will find the implementation of their insidious plan difficult, if not impossible—but certainly, impracticable—precisely because of those words etched in stone, impervious to erasure, that are, forever, our sacred Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The majority opinion in District of Columbia vs. Heller, 554 U.S. 570; 128 S. Ct. 2783; 171 L. Ed. 2d 637 (2008), penned by Justice Scalia, made clear, unmistakable, unequivocal, and categorical that the Second Amendment bespeaks an individual right of the people to keep and bear arms and that the right of the people to keep and bear arms logically entails the right of self-defense. In that seminal case, as well, the high Court’s majority made clear, unmistakable, unequivocal, and categorical that Government cannot legally preclude the right of each of us to defend ourselves with a handgun in one’s own home.
Does that mean that one’s right of self-defense stops at the doorstep of one’s home? Not at all. Yet, the forces that would crush the American people into submission went quickly and quietly to work to undermine the Heller rulings. They attempted and continue, to this very day, to attempt to undermine Heller. They do this through State Legislatures; through Congress; through mainstream news organizations; through grass root efforts, organized and funded by those despicable, disreputable, but powerful, highly secretive, and incommensurably wealthy overseers who seek to destroy our sacred Bill of Rights; and, most unfortunately, the forces that would crush the American people into submission do this through our Courts.
While politicians and media attempt to whittle away at the Heller rulings through pompous oratory and misleading and dubious assertions, their fellow travelers in the Courts attempt to whittle away at Heller through obfuscation and through use of arcane legalese that serves to hide the misapplication of law, and that is designed to hoodwink the lay person, not attuned to the intricacies of legal thought.
But, with Heller, the floodgates are open. The right expressed in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution can no longer be simply and summarily dismissed as a subordinate right or, worse, as a dead letter—a meaningless assertion without force or substance.
Wrenn vs. District of Columbia
The case handed down by the D.C. Circuit, yesterday, in Wrenn vs. District of Columbia, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 13348 (D.C. Cir. July 25, 2017), is the latest case to deal directly with a core Second Amendment issue. Does the right of use of a handgun in one’s self-defense in one’s home extend to the carrying of a handgun in one’s self-defense—which implies the carrying of a handgun in public—namely, outside the home. If so, defense of self, then, does not stop at the doorstep of one’s home, and Government is enjoined from creating arbitrary standards to restrict one’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.
The decision was correctly decided in favor of plaintiffs but it came through a convoluted, circuitous path through the lower District Courts; and the ultimate decision, wasn’t unanimous. One Judge, in the three-Judge panel that decided the case, dissented from the majority opinion.
The jurist who wrote the opinion for the Majority, Judge Griffith, began, thus: “Constitutional challenges to gun laws create peculiar puzzles for courts. In other areas, after all, a law’s validity might turn on the value of its goals and the efficiency of its means. But gun laws almost always aim at the most compelling goal—saving lives—while evidence of their effects is almost always deeply contested. On top of that, the Supreme Court has offered little guidance. Its ‘first in-depth examination of the Second Amendment’ is younger than the first iPhone. District of Columbia v. Heller (Heller I), 554 U.S. 570, 634, 128 S. Ct. 2783, 171 L. Ed. 2d 637 (2008). And by its own admission, that first treatment manages to be mute on how to review gun laws in a range of other cases. See id. at 634. But listening closely to Heller I reveals this much at least: the Second Amendment erects some absolute barriers that no gun law may breach. This lesson will prove crucial as we consider the challenges presented in these cases to the District of Columbia’s limits on carrying guns in public.”
Judge Griffith concluded the Wrenn opinion with this: “To watch the news for even a week in any major city is to give up any illusions about ‘the problem of handgun violence in this country.’ Heller I, 554 U.S. at 570. The District has understandably sought to fight this scourge with every legal tool at its disposal. For that long struggle against gun violence, you might see in today’s decision a defeat; you might see the opposite. To say whether it is one or the other is beyond our ken here. We are bound to leave the District as much space to regulate as the Constitution allows—but no more. Just so, our opinion does little more than trace the boundaries laid in 1791 and flagged in Heller I. And the resulting decision rests on a rule so narrow that good-reason laws seem almost uniquely designed to defy it: that the law-abiding citizen’s right to bear common arms must enable the typical citizen to carry a gun.”
Judge Griffith obviously took pains to appease the angry antigun mob with a few sops.
But, he made clear, if only tacitly, alluding to Justice Scalia’s assertions in Heller, that Government restrictions on one’s right to keep and bear arms, predicated on securing the safety of society does not invariably take precedent over the individual’s right to keep and bear arms.
Clearly, Government restrictions on the sacred right of the people to keep and bear arms, grounded on notions of protecting society as a whole, in order to secure the safety and tranquility of the collective, of the hive, is doubtless false, fatuous. What Government is truly undertaking in restricting the exercise of the right of the people to keep and bear arms is to constrain and control the people—to protect Government and the “elites” from the visible “threat” posed to their own unlawful usurpation of authority. Thus, restrictive gun legislation is contrary to the very import and purport of the Bill of Rights, as envisioned by the framers.
As with the Kolbe case (Kolbe vs. O’Malley, 42. F. Supp. 3d 768 (D. Md. 2014); vacated and remanded, Kolbe vs. Hogan, 813 F.3d 160 (4th Cir. 2016); rev’d en banc, Kolbe vs. Hogan, 849 F.3d 114 (4th Cir. 2017) ), that the Arbalest Quarrel will continue to analyze, the Arbalest Quarrel will provide an in-depth analysis of the Wrenn case as well.
Keep in mind that both cases, Kolbe and Wrenn, involve two core Second Amendment issues, and those two issues go hand-in-hand.
Kolbe involves the issue as to what firearms are protected under the core of the Second Amendment. The Wrenn case involves the issue as to what constitutes good cause or, rather, whether, one must establish cause at all to carry a handgun—to be able, then, lawfully to carry a handgun; and that issue necessarily implicates the notion of where a person may exercise the right: namely, whether the right to defend one’s life with a handgun exists only inside the home, or outside the home, as well.
Plaintiffs in Kolbe have filed for an extension of time for U.S. Supreme Court review of their case. The $1,000,000.00 question in Wrenn is: what will the Defendant, District of Columbia do, now that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit effectively struck down the restrictive District of Columbia handgun carry Statute?
This state of affairs is odd to say the least and exasperating for government, for no State government has, in recent times, coming on the heels of Heller, failed to secure a win at the U.S. Court of Appeals level, in spite of the rulings and reasoning of the majority in Heller. Consider: Plaintiffs–namely, those individuals and entities filing complaints alleging government violation of the core of the Second Amendment–who lost at the U.S. Circuit Court level, in those critical cases implicating the core of the Second Amendment. Plaintiffs then filed for U.S. Supreme Court review, but failed to obtain review. Four U.S. Supreme Court Justices must vote to hear a case. We know that Justices Scalia and Thomas had voted to review U.S. Court of Appeals decisions in Friedman v. City of Highland Park, 784 F.3d 406, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 6902 (7th Cir. Ill., 2015) and in Jackson v. City & County of San Francisco, 746 F.3d 953, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 5498 (9th Cir. Cal., 2014) because Justices Scalia and Thomas wrote scathing comments, indicting the decisions of the U.S. Circuit Courts in those cases and tacitly voiced, vociferously, their disapproval of those jurists–Justices–on the high Court who failed to vote in favor of review of the cases. Likely, Justice Alito cast a third vote in favor of review of the Friedman and Jackson cases, consistent with the votes cast by Justices Scalia and Thomas; but three votes is insufficient to support U.S. Supreme Court review. Recently, the high Court also rejected a writ of certiorari in Peruta v. Cnty. of San Diego, 824 F.3d 919, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 10436 (9th Cir. Cal., June 9, 2016). Justice Thomas wrote a comment, amounting to a vehement denunciation of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision in that case. The comment obviously alluded, as well, to more than slight chastisement of those Justices on the high Court who voted against review of Peruta. Justice Gorsuch, the most recent Justice to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, now joined Justice Thomas in dissenting the denial of the writ of certiorari. In each of those cases–Friedman v. City of Highland Park, 784 F.3d 406, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 6902 (7th Cir. Ill., 2015), Jackson v. City & County of San Francisco, 746 F.3d 953, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 5498 (9th Cir. Cal., 2014), and Peruta v. Cnty. of San Diego, 824 F.3d 919, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 10436 (9th Cir. Cal., June 9, 2016)–the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal in the Seventh and Ninth Circuits, clearly and, to our minds, unconscionably, revolted against the clear and categorical pronouncements of Heller and, further, deliberately and wrongly failed to heed to U.S. Supreme Court precedent. In so failing to follow high Court precedent, those recalcitrant U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal denigrated our system of laws that relies for its efficacy, efficiency, and consistency on adherence to case law precedent.
At this moment it isn’t clear what the Defendant, District of Columbia, will do having lost in Wrenn.
There are three options.
- One, the District of Columbia can file its own petition for review of the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the District of Columbia does this, the high Court may very well decide to hear the case as Wrenn’s connection to Heller–emanating as it does in the same jurisdiction–begs for a hearing if the District of Columbia dares to take the case up.
- Two, the District of Columbia can request an en banc review of the adverse decision. While en banc review–that is to say, a hearing of the full complement of U.S. Court of Appeals Judges of the D.C. Circuit to review the decision of the three-Judge panel–is not guaranteed, as an appellant cannot demand en banc review as a matter of right any more than a petitioner can demand that the U.S. Supreme Court accept petitioner’s writ of certiorari (in fact, the high Court accepts very few cases for review), there is, we believe, albeit unfortunately, in all likelihood, more than an even chance that the decision of the three-judge panel would be reversed, since the D.C. Circuit, like the Ninth Circuit, has a deep-set aversion to the Second Amendment.
- Three, the District of Columbia can let the ruling of the three-Judge panel in Wrenn stand. This means the District of Columbia will become a “shall-issue” handgun carry jurisdiction. For supporters of the Second Amendment, as true Americans, faithful to the strictures of the Bill of Rights as defined by and understood by the framers, are, this last scenario is an acceptable situation. For, while the decision of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals does not constitute binding precedent in other jurisdictions, the decision does constitute support, that sister jurisdictions might adopt.
One cautionary note to those individuals who seek to carry a handgun in the District of Columbia on the basis of the Wrenn decision: Be advised that to do so, one must still obtain a license to carry a handgun, issued by the appropriate authorities in the District of Columbia. Do not attempt to carry a handgun in the District of Columbia without first obtaining a valid District of Columbia handgun license! It is a serious offense to do so; and penalties are harsh.
One last note: Assuming the decision in Wrenn is not overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, hearing the case en banc, in the event the full complement of Judges decides to hear the case, or, in the alternative, assuming the decision in Wrenn is not overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, in the event the District of Columbia petitions the high Court for review of the case and the high Court accepts review of Wrenn vs. District of Columbia, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 13348 (D.C. Cir. July 25, 2017), that means one more United States jurisdiction is slowly, if grudgingly, commencing to comply with the rulings of Heller. T
hat also means that we, supporters of full exercise of the right to keep and bear arms as codified in the Second Amendment, are one step closer to realization of our goal of National handgun carry reciprocity.
It is time for Congress to get off its duff and act to make National handgun carry reciprocity a reality!
About The Arbalest Quarrel:
Arbalest Group created `The Arbalest Quarrel’ website for a special purpose. That purpose is to educate the American public about recent Federal and State firearms control legislation. No other website, to our knowledge, provides as deep an analysis or as thorough an analysis. Arbalest Group offers this information free.
For more information, visit: www.arbalestquarrel.com.