A three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit last week ruled the federal law prohibiting handgun sales to out-of-state residents is in the public interest.
The legal challenge came from a couple from Washington, D.C. who tried to buy handguns from a federally licensed firearms dealer in Texas but could not due to federal law adopted in the 1960s.
Together with a Texas FFL holder, the couple joined with gun rights advocates in taking the government on, arguing that since the advent of the National Instant Check System it makes no sense to perpetuate a ban on interstate transfers of handguns. The court disagreed with that concept, holding that handguns often have additional regulatory pitfalls in many states, and that gun dealers can’t be expected to be familiar with those in distant areas.
“There are more than 123,000 FFLs nationwide,” wrote Circuit Judge Priscilla Owen for the majority. “It is unrealistic to expect that each of them can become and remain knowledgeable about the handgun laws of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and the local laws within the 50 states.”
The plaintiffs in the suit included Frederic Mance Jr., a Texas FFL, and gun buyers Andrew and Tracey Hanson, of Washington, D.C. Mance wants to sell handguns to out of state consumers, such as the Hansons, but is precluded by federal law although the laws of Texas do not prohibit the transaction.
On June 21, 2014, the Hansons visited Mance’s gun shop in Texas but could not by law take possession of a handgun there. Mance could have shipped handguns bought by the couple in Texas to the District’s only FFL that handles interstate transfers, but according to the complaint, the dealer charges $125 per transfer in addition to shipping costs and other fees. This, concluded a lower court in 2015, was a burden on the Hanson’s Second Amendment rights as well as due process under the Fifth Amendment. That court ruling was reversed by the panel this week.
Backed by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the organization may ask the court for an en banc review of the latest decision and continue fighting it to the Supreme Court.