Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Texas Suppressor Lawsuit Dismissed as Judge Decides Plaintiffs Lack Legal Standing

Daniel SoundGuard Suppressors

On July 18, Judge Mark T. Pittman, presiding in the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division, determined that the plaintiffs in the case of Ken Paxton v. Gary M. Restaino (the case name changes with the changing head of the ATF) had no standing for their lawsuit. This was due to the absence of substantial harm suffered by them. The case has been dismissed without prejudice, allowing it to be refiled should new evidence surface. This case resulted from the implementation of Texas bill HB 957, which instructed the Texas Attorney General to challenge the constitutionality of the federal law controlling the possession and regulation of silencers. HB 957 became law on September 1, 2021.

The lawsuit was initiated by Ken Paxton, the Texas State Attorney General, on February 24, 2022, in compliance with Texas Bill HB 957. The legal arguments were reinforced by the Bruen decision issued on June 22, 2022. Achieving the declaration of a federal law as unconstitutional is challenging. This task was simpler before the ideological Progressives gained control of the government, starting with President Theodore Roosevelt's era. The government was moderately curtailed under President Calvin Coolidge, amplified under President Woodrow Wilson, and driven into high gear during Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration and World War II. Since the Progressive revolution in the Supreme Court during the 1930s, the Court has shown greater resistance to overturning federal laws, assuming a presumption of constitutionality if passed by the legislature.

For entities challenging laws, they must possess “standing”, meaning they have suffered a real “concrete injury to a legally protected interest”. However, standing has increasingly been used as a method for judges to select the cases they wish to preside over. Judges have extended standing to individuals in environmental cases due to their "interest" in future enjoyment of nature trails, as an example. It's difficult to gain standing against federal criminal law without being accused of the crime in question. Nevertheless, even momentary denial of Constitutional rights is considered a concrete injury. In Judge Pittman's words:

The guidance from our high court on standing remains to be "a morass of imprecision" - a quote from N.H. Rt. to Life Pol. Action Comm. v. Gardner, 99 F.3d 8, 12 (1st Cir. 1996). At best, standing is now "unsettled in nature [and] beset with difficulties" - from Thompson v. Cnty. of Franklin, 15 F.3d 245, 247 (2nd Cir. 1994). However, fortunately for this Court, although no one can pinpoint the height of the doctrine’s “amorphous” bar, it is easy to see that these Plaintiffs have not reached it.

Judge Pittman acknowledges the environmental case Paxton referred to as a way to assert Texas has standing in this case, but Pittman did not accept the argument. From his judgement:

Texas is not protecting any interest similar to the "earth and air within its domain." Texas does not allege that it has any imminent injury specific to the state or its administration. See Biden, et al. v. Nebraska, et al., 143 S.Ct. 2355, 2358 (2023) (holding that Missouri established standing by showing it "suffered... a concrete injury to a legally protected interest, like property or money"). By its own admission, Texas seeks to protect the ability of its residents to produce firearm silencers at home.

Supporters of the Second Amendment may argue that fundamental constitutional rights are of higher importance than regulating car or factory emissions. Judge Pittman, however, disagrees. No ruling has yet declared that silencers are protected arms, though they seem to meet all the criteria given in the Supreme Court decisions of Heller, McDonald, Caetano and Bruen. Judge Pittman extricated himself from the case by ruling the plaintiffs do not have standing, without prejudice. In a previous case, Judge Mark T. Pittman overruled a Texas law prohibiting 18-20-year-olds from carrying a handgun in public.

The case is likely headed for an appeal, though it's not guaranteed. AG Ken Paxton, who is seen as a rival by Republicans and their Democratic party allies, has been impeached. Over the past several years, Paxton has been a constant target of lawfare actions. With the impeachment process in progress, Paxton no longer leads the Attorney General office. His successor might not view the silencer case as crucial. This will be determined in the coming months.

The intense regulation of silencers/gun mufflers/suppressors puzzles firearm users worldwide. Many countries have minimal regulation of these devices. The heavy regulation in the U.S. is hard to comprehend. Silencers are rarely used in crime and offer numerous benefits such as protecting hearing, reducing noise pollution, aiding in training and increasing use in the military. They provide evident advantages for home defense and hunting. Those advocating for population disarmament likely aim to maintain heavy silencer regulation precisely because of the devices' many benefits.

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