In a move that already has gun-control enthusiasts clutching their pearls, a judge on Wednesday ruled that a federal law barring possession of a gun with a removed serial number is unconstitutional.
Taking his cue from the guiding precedent of the Supreme Court's landmark June gun ruling that found Americans have a constitutionally-protected right to carry a handgun in public, U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin said the serial-number-removal law was inconsistent with the country's "historical tradition of firearms regulation."
Wednesday's ruling in U.S. v Price sprang from a criminal case in which a man named Randy Price was charged with possessing a firearm with its serial number removed. The law that was struck down made it a crime to either transport such a gun across state lines, or simply possess such a gun if it had ever crossed a state line.
Judge Goodwin, a President Clinton nominee, noted that "serial numbers were not broadly required for all firearms manufactured and imported in the United States until the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968," and the ban on possessing a firearm with a removed serial number didn't come about until 1990.
Given that, he found the law barring the removal of serial numbers fails the test established by June's Supreme Court case, New York Rifle & Pistol Association v Bruen. Specifically, to justify a firearm regulation, the Supreme Court said "the government must demonstrate that the regulation is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation."
Though the Bruen test is only a few months old, it's already animated several rulings against gun laws, including:
- A Texas law that barred 18- to 20-year-olds from carrying a gun in public
- A federal law preventing indicted people from buying guns
- New York's post-Bruen ban on concealed carry of guns in airports, train stations and other "sensitive locations"
- A Delaware law banning the manufacture and possession of so-called "ghost guns"
Before some of you start cheerfully obliterating your serial numbers, note that the federal government is likely to appeal the ruling, which means the Fourth Circuit may have a say in it...but maybe not the final say.
Until then, take in a few of the reactions:
And a federal judge said banning firearms that have no serial number is unconstitutional. I wonder if they'd change their tune if one of their own was shot.— Blue In A Red State Nicole (@Nicole07291960) October 13, 2022
A federal judge in West Virginia has ruled that a federal ban on possessing a gun with its serial number removed is unconstitutional.— 🌘 TENACIOUS TEAH 🌘 (@TeahCartel) October 13, 2022
Guns have more rights than women.
Why? What good reason could there be to block a law banning owning guns with no serial number, or to own a gun with no serial number? https://t.co/knAFpObJP7— Aliphaire Mistelski 🕰🎬📚 (@Aliphaire) October 13, 2022
Republicans accuse Democrats of being soft on crime—then appoint Supreme Court justices whose rulings give Americans a right to obliterate their guns' serial numbers so the weapons are untraceable by law enforcement. Wild stuff. https://t.co/0bwP7vuv7g https://t.co/3TNx5n9NbX— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) October 13, 2022