Descriptions of state gun cases

Copyright by James O. Bardwell, 1995-1997. Permission is given to reproduce this document or portions thereof with attribution, for non-commercial, or non-governmental use only. No claim to U.S. statutes, regulations or case opinions quoted herein.

State court case links with no descriptions.

  • Addison v. Williams, 546 So.2d 220 (La.App. 1989)
    In this case the Louisiana court of appeals decides that there is no cause of action against the maker of a semi-auto "assault weapon" where that gun is used in a criminal assault. As with cases involving handguns, the court decides that the maker of the gun is not responsible for its criminal misuse. The appendix containing part of the claim against Colt, the maker of the SP1 rifle at issue, is instructive as a shopping list of the HCI rant against "assault" rifles. Ultimately they boil down to its meant to kill people, therefore it is bad.
  • Adkinson v. Rossi Arms Company, 659 P.2d 1236 (Alaska 1983)
    In this case the plaintiff was convicted of manslaughter for shooting another person to death with a shotgun made by Rossi. He then has the temerity to sue the maker of the shotgun, and the seller, blaming them for his lost wages while being incarcerated, and his legal bills from his criminal trial, and so on. That's pretty gutsy. Instead of slapping him, as they should have, the judges throw his case out, suggesting that perhaps the cause of his damages is himself, and not the shotgun.
  • Akron v. Rasdan, 105 Ohio App.3d 164 (1995)
    In this case the Ohio court of appeals strikes down a ban on carrying knives enacted by the city of Akron. The court finds that the ordinance prohibits to many lawful activites to be rationally connected to the ostensible goal of preventing or deterring violent uses of knives. The court does decide that the law does not violate the right to keep and bear arms provided by the Ohio constitution, following Arnold v. Cleveland.
  • Andrews v. State, 50 Tenn. 165 (1871)
    In this 1871 case the Tennessee supreme court decides that a law that prohibits "carrying" any of a number of listed arms is constitutional, under that state's right to keep and bear arms clause, except to the extent it prohibits carrying handguns which are suited for military use. The court decides that the constitutional right only extends to keeping and bearing military weapons, and not knives, and guns that are not military weapons. The court also decides that carrying does not include taking the gun to be repaired, or any other bearing of it that does not have the intent of going about armed. Myself, I am inclined more to agree with the dissent, but at least the court rejected the collective right advocated by the attorney general in the case, and construed the right as being personal to each citizen.
  • Arnold v. Cleveland, 67 Ohio St.3d 35 (Ohio 1993)
    This case is from Ohio's highest court, over the constitutionality of the Cleveland AW ban. The court upholds it, against a challenge based on the Ohio constitution. This case, and Robertson v. Denver, is my nightmare about what happens when the Supremes finally do a case on the meaning of the second amendment. The court agrees it applies to individuals, and none of this BS about it guarantees states a right to a national guard. Of course they are interpreting the Ohio constitutional section, not the second amendment. But they decide that a city need only show a reasonable relationship between their infringing of the right, and the public health and safety, to void it. This is an absurd standard. Essentially the same holding was had in Robertson v. Denver, the Colorado challenge to the Denver AW ban.

    The Supreme Court has created a framework for analyzing laws that are alleged to be unconstitutional. Particularly in the area of made up rights, like a right to an abortion, or a right to a government job, they decide if the right is "fundamental" or not. However, as to rights listed in the Constitution, like the right to free speech, or assembly, or to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, these are usually presumed to be fundamental, and are thus subject to so called "strict scrutiny" analysis. This means the government has to show a compelling interest furthered by the law, with the means of achieving that interest narrowly tailored to the problem at hand. On the other hand, with something the court deems to not be fundamental, the state need only show a reasonable relationship between the power exercised, and the way it is done. Thus laws regulating contract are very liberally reviewed. On the other hand, race conscious laws need to be motivated by a very important govermnet interest, and are usually void. The Ohio court here in essence decides, that the right exists, but it isn't fundamental, and almost any justification will be sufficient for the state to run roughshod over it. The Supremes could easily use this logic to uphold most federal gun control laws under the second amendment. It has been done many times before, in other contexts. The dissent in this case is right on the money.

  • Aymette v. State, 2 Humphreys 154 (Tenn. 1840)
    This 1840 Tennessee case was cited by the court in the US v. Miller(the supreme court one) presumably for the proposition that, as under the Tenn. state consitution, the federal right to bear arms only protects the right to bear military arms, and not the arms of the assassin or ruffian. In this case Tenn. passed a law prohibiting the concealed carry of bowie knives or Arkansas toothpick knives. These are large, in some cases double edged, fighting type knives. The court said that this law did not offend the state constitutional right to bear arms. They said a law barring the carrying of such knives altogether might offend the constitution, but this was aimed at the instruments of criminals, carried in the manner of criminals (concealed). It is odd to read the thoughts of a 20th century liberal in something from 1840. The judge is of the opinion that if this law did not exist there would be no check on ruffians showing up at the theater, or at church, armed, with bayonets fixed, and putting fear into the general population. I would think that having the law abiding population similarly armed would check that sort of behavior, but the judge thinks only an act of government can protect the populace from the dirtballs. The court also disagrees strenuously with a contemporaneous Kentucky case holding a similar law void under its state's right to bear arms clause. The court reads the Tenn. right, and the federal right, as only protecting the right of the populace to own arms, for protecting against tyrants, and not for personal protection.
  • Bain v. State, 44 S.W. 518 (Tx. 1898)
    In this 1898 case, the Texas court decides that a person going a distance of 35 miles, and staying overnight, is a "traveler" under a statute permitting travelers to carry firearms on their person. The court notes that traveler is not defined by the statute, and while they will not construe it be any person going from one place to another, given that the legislature decided not define it, they will call the trip in this case sufficient to make the defendant a "traveler".
  • Beck v. State, 12 Ark.App. 341 (1984)
    In this case the Arkansas appeals court, in part, upholds a conviction for possessing a machine gun in violation of Arkansas law. The weapon was apparently an old one, chambered for some 7.62x25 size cartridge. The ATF expert who looked at the gun for the state could not get it fire full auto, but claimed that was because the ammo he used was old and crummy. The defendant then contended on appeal that the state failed to prove the gun fired more than 5 shots with a single function of the trigger (as required by Arkansas law at the time of the case) and thus failed toprove the gun was a machine gun. The court said that his testimony as an expert that the gun was a machine gun was enough to meet the state' burden, and since the defendant didn't put on any expert on the issue, the jury was entitled to beleive the gun was a machine gun, even though the state couldn't get it to function as one when testing it.
  • Bell v. Smitty's Super Valu, Inc., 183 Ariz. 66 (App. 1995)
  • Benjamin v. Bailey, 662 A.2d 1226 (Conn. 1995)
    This is the case where the Conn. supreme court upholds that state's ban on select fire machine guns (only) and on listed semi-auto firearms; all called "assault weapons". The court decides the ban does not infringe on the state constitutional right to bear arms, as all that protects is a right to have some sort of arm that is suited to defense of person and state, and not a gun of your choosing. All other guns may be banned. The court also decides that the list of arms banned does not violate the state or federal equal protection clauses because they only apply to people not guns. And the law is not a bill of attainder for singling out guns for banning as that is not punishment (being listed and banned). Also the court decides that the law is not facially vague for banning "AK-47 type" guns, "Auto-Ordnance Thompson type" guns, and "MAC-10, MAC-11 and MAC11 Carbine type" guns, as supposedly folks of average intelligence can figure out what guns that is or are. A pretty lame case, with lots of conclusory type logic. Their vagueness discussion in particular makes no sense, they claim that the experts for the defense and plaintiff could supposedly figure out what guns were covered, therefore anyone can. However the court says that this does not mean the law is not unconstitutionally vague in a particular case.
  • Bennett v. Glock, Inc., Case No. 2 CA-CV 96-0292 (Arizona Ct. App. June 18, 1998)
    In this unpublished decision, a man shot by robbers at his business sued Glock because his Glock pistol jammed when he was trying to shoot back at the robbers. He blamed Glock for having gotten shot. The court reverses a jury verdict for Glock, based on pre-trial discovery rulings by the trial judge, but affirms the decision that Glock did not negligently design the handgun with an inherent jamming problem.
  • Bliss v. Commonwealth, 2 Littell 90 (Ky. 1822)
    In this case the Kentucky court throws out, as unconstitutional, a law prohibiting carrying concealed weapons, in this case a sword in a cane. The court decides the law treads upon the state constitutional right to keep and bear arms. While they say the law does not totally abrogate it, no interference with a right laid out in the constitution can be tolerated. They see no basis for deciding that a law prohibiting the carrying of arms, whether it elects to prohibit the concealed carry, or unconcealed carry, can co-exist with the constitution. One or the other leaves part of the right around, but once you have permitted infringement, there is no reasoned basis to leave any part of the right intact. Thus no infringement can be allowed. A nice case, about the only such one on this web page. This case is expressly disapproved of in the Tennessee Aymette case. The Supremes in Miller cite Aymette for authority, and ignore this case. I wonder why.
  • Bolivar v. Hagar, 950 S.W.2d 948 (Mo.App. 1997)
  • Boston v. State, 952 S.W.2d 671 (Ark. 1997)
    In this case the Arkansas court decides that an exception to the state law prohibiting carry of firearms for carry on the premises of one's business does not include a taxicab, as the place of business has to be real estate, mostly because they say so, since the law says nothing of the kind.
  • Boyer v. State, 107 Md.App. 32 (1995)
    In this case, perhaps the second where the registered owner of a machine gun used it to commit a crime (see Searcy v. City of Dayton for another one), Boyer is convicted of possessing a (federally and state) registered machine gun for aggressive purposes, and of reckless endangerment with the machine gun. Both were based on his possession of a loaded MAC style machine gun, under the bedcovers, when the police and his wife came to their house, after a fight. He was in bed with the gun concealed, watching TV with his infant daughter. The cops came in the bedroom, got into a confrontation with him, and discovered the gun in the bed.

    The case is the only one construing possessing a machine gun with loaded ammo for same (or spent shells) to be illegal, as possessing the gun for aggressive or offensive use, under Maryland law. The upshot seems to be that possessing a machine gun for use as a weapon, either in self defense, or for nefarious purposes, is a crime in that State. In fact possessing it loaded gives rise to a presumption that it is possessed for unlawful (aggressive) purposes. I wonder how folks there handle going to the range.

  • Brevard County, v. Bagwell, 388 So.2d 645 (Fla.App. 1980)
    In this case the Florida court of appeals upholds part of a county ordinance adding conditions to the state law conditions on issuing concealed carry permits. The court voids a section purporting to give the county commissioners discretion to consider other factors, depending on the applicant. The court decided that sort of discretion was not permissible under the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment to the US Constitution, in that it permitted the commissioners to treat applicants differently, without any known basis. The court upheld other conditions added by the county ordinance, since the state law (then) permitted counties to add conditions. Since this case the law was repealed, and replaced with a uniform, state issued, permit system.
  • Burkett v. Freedom Arms, Inc., 299 Or. 551 (1985)
    In this case the Oregon supreme court rejects a claim that the maker of a handgun used by an inmate during a jail break to injure a person is responsible for the injuries. The court indicates that gun makers are not legally responsible for the criminal use of their products.
  • Burton v. Sills, 53 N.J. 86 (1968)
    In this case the NJ Supreme Court upholds the NJ law requiring a license to own long guns against a challenge that it violates the second amendment (NJ has no state constitutional clause on bearing or keeping arms), that it vests too much discretion with the State Police, and that it violates rights against self-incrimination.
  • California Rifle and Pistol Association v. City of West Hollywood, - Cal.App.4th - (1998)
    In this case the California court of appeals upholds a city ordinance banning the sale of so-called saturday night special handguns against an argument that it is pre-empted by state law, and that it violates the constitutional rights of due process and equal protection.
  • Carlton v. State, 63 Fla. 1, 58 So. 486 (1912)
    In this case, in relevant part, the Supreme Court of Florida decides that that state's constitutional guarantee of the right to bear arms does not include a right to carry concealed weapons, or of drunken (black) ruffians to go armed. The defendants, three apparently black brothers, were convicted of killing a sheriff's deputy and another man as the brothers were being arrested.
  • Chan v. City of Troy, 220 Mich.App. 376 (Mich.Ct.App. 1996)
    In this case the Michigan court of appeals strikes down a Michigan law that only citizens are eligible for a permit to buy a handgun. The court decides that (as the Supreme court has many times) that a law making classifications based on alienage is subject to strict scrutiny, like a law which makes classifications based on race. The court decides that limiting gun ownership to citizens is not constitutional, although it does suggest that limiting gun ownership to legal residents of the USA might be OK, citing federal law to that effect. The plaintiff was a permanent resident alien (ie holder of a "green card") but not a citizen.
  • Chief of Police of Shelburne v. Moyer, 16 Mass.App. 543 (1983)
  • Cincinnati v. Langan, 94 Ohio App.3d 22, review denied, 70 Ohio St.3d 1425 (1994)
    In this case the Ohio court of appeals upholds a conviction for violating a city ordinance prohibiting possession of semi-automatic rifles and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. In this case the defendant was caught with a Ruger 10/22 and a Ruger mini-14, as well as high capacity magazines for both. The court, following the Arnold v. Cleveland case, decided that the law and his conviction did not violate his state constitutional right to keep and bear arms, nor did the grandfathering of people who registered their guns when the ordinance took effect violate the defendant's right to equal protection of the law.
  • Citizens for a Safer Community v. City of Rochester, 627 N.Y.S.2d 193 (Supp. 1994)
    In this opinion the lower NY court decides that a Rochester ordinance banning "assault weapons" is basically OK under NY and federal law. The court construes the law to only apply to semi-auto long guns when they have a large capacity magazine installed on them. The court also finds that the laws regulation of air guns is overbroad, as it covers both pneumatic tools and air guns which federal law expressly allows the possession of.
  • Clark v. Banks, 515 N.W.2d 5 (Iowa 1994)
    In this case the Iowa supreme court decides that the sheriff is not required to keep application forms submitted to him for licenses to carry concealed weapons. The plaintiffs sought the forms under the state open records law, and when that was granted by the court, the sheriff started a policy of returning the forms to the applicant after he had made a decision. The plaintiffs, denied access to the forms again, sued, but the court decided he could return them, and thus avoid making them public records. The court noted that when he granted a license application, most of the information submitted was transmitted to the state, where as public records, they could be accessed. However, applications that were denied applarently just went home with the applicant.
  • Cleveland v. Broyles, 83 Ohio Misc.2d 50 (Clev. Mun. 1996)
    In this case, the Cleveland, Ohio, municipal court refuses to dismiss charges under a city ordinance that makes it a crime to leave a gun where a child accesses it. In this case, a child found the defendant's handgun and fatally shot herself with it, apparently accidentally. The court decides that the ordinance is not unconstitutionally vague, in that it reasonably describes the prohibited conduct, does not give authorities unreasonable discretion in deciding what is an offense, and does not implicate any constitutional liberties, including a right to keep and bear arms. The West reporter notes that the defendant later was convicted, and abandoned an appeal to the Ohio court of appeals.
  • Cockrum v. State, 24 Texas 394 (1859)
    In this pre-civil war case, the Texas appeals court decides that a law punishing what would otherwise be manslaughter as murder when done with a bowie-knife or dagger, does not violate either the US or Texas constitution's clauses on the right to keep arms. While the court acknowledged that some such enhancements might work to deter the citizens from exercising their right to carry arms, the legislature may punish misuse of more dangerous arms if it wishes. The court stated that unlike swords and handguns, the knives in question were hard to defend against, and more likely to kill than other weapons.
  • Commonwealth v. Bartholomew, 326 Mass. 218 (1950)
    In this case the Mass. supreme court decides that while a truly non-operational machine gun will not be covered by the law prohibiting possession of such guns, the fact that the gun is missing a firing pin is not enough to remove it from the statute. Thus the defendants were properly convicted of possessing a Thompson sub machine gun, even though it lacked a firing pin.
  • Commonwealth v. Colton, 333 Mass. 607 (1956)
    In this short case, the Mass. supreme court decides that just because a machine gun is missing a magazine does not make it unusable to the point that it isn't a machine gun. The court equates it to having the gun unloaded, which is also a state in which it can't fire a shot, but such minimal effort is needed, like replacing a firing pin, in the Commonwealth v. Bartholomew case, that the gun is still within the statute.
  • Commonwealth v. Davis, 369 Mass. 886 (1976)
    In this case the Mass Supreme Court, on occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, explains why the subjects of the Commonwealth of Massachussetts have no right to own arms, either under the state Declaration of Rights, or under the US Constitution's second amendment.
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