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Dismissal of Post-1986 Machinegun Ban Challenge Appealed

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Article first appeared at Ammoland.com

Ammoland.com – An appeal was filed Wednesday in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit contesting the dismissal by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania of a case challenging the ban on civilian ownership of machineguns manufactured after 1986. Attorneys Alan Beck and Stephen Stamboulieh are representing claimant Ryan S. Watson in his complaint against the U.S. Attorney General and the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“Watson was given permission by [ATF] to make a machinegun by approving his ATF Form 5320.1 (‘Form 1’). Watson subsequently made the authorized machinegun,” the opening brief states in its introduction.”The BATFE later revoked the approved Form 1 and mandated that Watson surrender the machinegun, which he did under protest.

“Watson then filed his Complaint in … district court challenging the constitutionality of the offending statutes facially and as-applied on Second Amendment grounds and contending that the Appellees violated Watson’s Equal Protection and Due Process rights,” the brief elaborates. “The district court granted Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss or Alternatively, for Summary Judgment in part, finding that Watson had standing to bring his challenge but ultimately granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss.”

The brief provides a fascinating history of the tortured reasoning behind the original 1934 Firearms Act infringement through taxation, presenting testimony from then-Attorney General Homer Cummings before the House Ways and Means Committee. It also produces documentation from ATF itself admitting “the term ‘person’ in the [Gun Control Act of 1968] does not include an unincorporated trust [and] such a trust is not subject to the prohibition.”

Also included are citations and precedents conclusively demonstrating “The Second Amendment ensures that there is equality on an individual basis with the ‘organized’ militia … The Federal and State governments have no authority to subordinate the individual firearms of the ‘unorganized’ militia or to limit magazine content and lesser quality or inferior ammunition.”

The Watson case raises similar arguments to those raised in Hollis v. Lynch, another complaint Stamboulieh and Beck are pursing that is being backed by the Heller Foundation. That case out of Texas also involves an approved Form 1 machinegun on a trust after which ATF revoked the issued tax stamp, something they have no statutory authority to do.  Likewise, that case was dismissed at the District Court level and is being appealed to the Fifth Circuit. A quick distinction between the two cases is that in Hollis, ATF approved the Form 1, but he did not build a machinegun.

“Alan and I are pleased to represent a patriot such as Mr. Watson,” attorney Stamboulieh told AmmoLand. “We are likewise humbled at the support we have received from individuals and various groups all across the country. We believe that a faithful reading of the Second Amendment mandates a finding that Watson’s M16 is a protected arm, and thus, the 1986 ban on its possession is unconstitutional. We continue to need your support and look forward to restoring our Second Amendment rights.”

You can read the complete Watson appeal brief here, and review early filings and documentation here.

As with the Hollis case the Heller Foundation is supporting the Watson case efforts. I’m told the attorneys still need donations as they spent a lot in filing fees and briefing expenses recently, and will have more expenses when they file rebuttal briefs. Gun owners who wish to lend more than moral support can make donations to the Heller NFA Fund.


In other court news:

Still no word at this writing from the Supreme Court on whether or not it will grant cert in the Friedman v. Highland Park challenge to a municipal “assault weapon”/magazine ban. Per the SCOTUS docket, it was scheduled for today’s conference. I’ll update this section if more becomes known by the end of the day.


Attorney Alan Gura of Heller and McDonald fame has asked Chief Justice John Roberts for direction on the judge assigned to the new DC gun law case. Gura’s letter and documentation are here.

David Codrea in his natural habitat.



About David Codrea:

David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating / defending the RKBA and a long-time gun rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament.

He blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and also posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook



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