The 9th Circuit issued an unusual decision on a Second Amendment case this week: A panel of the federal appeals court overturned Hawaii’s decades-old ban on butterfly knives, finding that the prohibition violated the right to keep and bear arms. Though the ruling didn’t concern firearms, Matt Ford writes in The New Republic, it could prove hugely consequential for the future of gun safety laws. That’s because the decision responds to a key question in constitutional law right now: What, exactly, counts as protected “arms” under the Second Amendment?
The logic of the appeals court’s ruling stems directly from the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision last year. The 9th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over about one-fifth of the country’s population, found that Hawaii failed Bruen’s “history and tradition” test — which requires attorneys to find “historical analogues” from around 1791 or 1868, when the Second and Fourteenth amendments were respectively adopted — and that the legal precedents the state staked its case on were unconvincing.
Ford argues that the implications of the ruling for firearm laws rests in the “narrower approach” to defining what qualifies as a “dangerous and unusual” weapon. If the ruling stands, it could spark challenges to state-level laws banning specific types of guns. “Either way,” Ford writes, “it seems likely that the Supreme Court will have to decide at some point what weapons count as ‘arms’ under the Second Amendment, as well as which ones are ‘dangerous and unusual’ in a post-Bruen world.”
What to Know Today
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee officially called state lawmakers back to the Capitol for a much-anticipated special session on mental health and criminal justice. According to his proclamation, Lee will not push the General Assembly to pass a red flag law — despite spending the past few months insisting that he would pursue the legislation — but the session’s parameters would allow a lawmaker to introduce a similar proposal. [The Tennessean/Tennessee Lookout]
The killing of Raymond Mattia — a Native man who was shot by Border Patrol agents in Arizona on Tohono O’odham Nation land — has stirred up long-running resentments over Border Patrol’s presence on Native American territory, and forced tribal leaders to weigh the costs of their partnerships with the federal law enforcement agency. [The New York Times]
A Pentagon audit revealed that military recruiters sometimes skipped steps to screen out enlistees affiliated with extremist groups. The investigation, which examined applicants from each service from July 2021 through the end of January 2022, found that 40 percent of recruiters in its sample did not administer screening forms. [Stars and Stripes] Context: Guns and extremism have long been intertwined in America, with some using gun rights as an organizing principle while others see firearms as a means to an end.
Washington, D.C., is experiencing a particularly violent summer: There were 16 homicides in the District in the first week of August. The killings, most of them committed with guns, have left residents alarmed and traumatized — and prompted lawmakers to call for extreme measures to stop the shootings. [DCist]
California enacted a gun violence restraining order law in 2016, but usage is sparse among the 10 million people in Los Angeles County. Could a public awareness campaign help? [Los Angeles Daily News]
Americans today eat a lot of avocados, most of them grown in the Mexican state of Michoacan. As the industry grew more lucrative over the past few years, it drew the attention of cartels, members of which have been able to extort farmers under threat of death thanks to the flow of guns from the U.S. [NPR]
Ahead of the fall semester, Temple University in Philadelphia is rolling out a number of new security measures, including installing hundreds of cameras, deploying more bike and foot patrols, and offering an improved safety app. A university official said the school will also introduce gun-detection technology over the course of the upcoming term. [The Philadelphia Inquirer] Context: Crime and safety have long been prominent topics of conversation in the Temple community. But the shooting of a campus police officer earlier this year refueled the dialogue.
Guns Recovered by Mexico’s Military Come Mostly From U.S. Makers: Data shows American companies produce the weapons driving cartel violence. (October 2022)