EZELL v. CITY OF CHICAGO No. 10-3525.
651 F.3d 684 (2011)
Rhonda EZELL, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant-Appellee.
United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.
Decided July 6, 2011.
Alan Gura (argued), Attorney, Gura & Possessky, Alexandria, VA, David G. Sigale, Attorney, Glen Ellyn, IL, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.
James A. Feldman (argued), Attorney, Washington, DC, Mara S. Georges, Attorney, Office of the Corporation Counsel, Appeals Division, Suzanne M. Loose, Attorney, City of Chicago Law Department, Chicago, IL, for Defendant-Appellee.
Charles J. Cooper, Attorney, Cooper & Kirk, Washington, DC, for Amicus Curiae, Brett Benson.
Clifford M. Sloan, Attorney, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, Washington, DC, for Amici Curiae, Paul Finkelman, Stanley Katz, David Thomas Konig, Patrick J. Charles, and Robert J. Spitzer.
Before KANNE, ROVNER, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.
SYKES, Circuit Judge.
For nearly three decades, the City of Chicago had several ordinances in place "effectively banning handgun possession by almost all private citizens." McDonald v. City of Chicago, ___ U.S. ___
Soon after the Court's decision in Heller, Chicago's handgun ban was challenged. McDonald, 130 S.Ct. at 3027. The foundational question in that litigation was whether the Second Amendment applies to the States and subsidiary local governments. Id. at 3026. The Supreme Court gave an affirmative answer: The Second Amendment applies to the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. at 3050. In the wake of McDonald, the Chicago City Council lifted the City's laws banning handgun possession and adopted the Responsible Gun Owners Ordinance in their place.
The plaintiffs here challenge the City Council's treatment of firing ranges. The Ordinance mandates one hour of range
We reverse. The court's decision turned on several legal errors. To be fair, the standards for evaluating Second Amendment claims are just emerging, and this type of litigation is quite new. Still, the judge's decision reflects misunderstandings about the nature of the plaintiffs' harm, the structure of this kind of constitutional claim, and the proper decision method for evaluating alleged infringements of Second Amendment rights. On the present record, the plaintiffs are entitled to a preliminary injunction against the firing-range ban. The harm to their Second Amendment rights cannot be remedied by damages, their challenge has a strong likelihood of success on the merits, and the City's claimed harm to the public interest is based entirely on speculation.
A. Chicago's Responsible Gun Owners Ordinance
The day after the Supreme Court decided McDonald, the Chicago City Council's Committee on Police and Fire held a hearing to explore possible legislative responses to the decision. A Chicago alderman asked the City's legal counsel what could be done about firearms possession and other gun-related activity in the city, including shooting ranges. The City's Corporation Counsel replied that the Council could "limit what we allow to operate in our city however is reasonable as decided by the City Council."
The Committee quickly convened hearings and took testimony about the problem of gun violence in Chicago. Witnesses included academic experts on the issue of gun violence in general; community organizers and gun-control advocates; and law-enforcement officers, including Jody Weis, then the Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. Based on these hearings, the Committee made recommendations to the City Council about how it should regulate firearm possession and other firearm-related activity.
The Council immediately took up the Committee's recommendations and, just four days after McDonald was decided, repealed the City's laws banning handgun possession and unanimously adopted the Responsible Gun Owners Ordinance. See Nat'l Rifle Ass'n of Am., Inc. v. City of Chicago, Ill., Nos. 10-3957, 10-3965 & 11-1016, 2011 WL 2150785, at *1 (7th Cir. June 2, 2011). The new Ordinance — a sweeping array of firearm restrictions — took effect on July 12, 2010. To give a sense of its scope: The Ordinance prohibits handgun possession outside the home, CHI. MUN.CODE § 8-20-020, and the possession of long guns outside the home or the owner's fixed place of business, id. § 8-20-030. It forbids the sale or other transfer of firearms except through inheritance or between peace officers. Id. § 8-20-100. A person may have "no more than one
The Ordinance also contains an elaborate permitting regime. It prohibits the possession of any firearm without a Chicago Firearm Permit. CHI. MUN.CODE § 8-20-110(a). (Certain public-safety and private-security professionals are exempt.) In addition, all firearms must have a registration certificate, and to register a firearm, the owner must have a valid Permit.
As relevant here, permits are conditioned upon completion of a certified firearm-safety course. Applicants must submit an affidavit signed by a state-certified firearm instructor attesting that the applicant has completed a certified firearm-safety and training course that provides at least four hours of classroom instruction and one hour of range training.
Violations are punishable by a fine of $1,000 to $5,000 and incarceration for a term of "not less than 20 days nor more than 90 days," and "[e]ach day that such
The firing-range ban does not apply to governmental agencies. Id. § 8-20-280. The federal government operates four indoor firing ranges in Chicago, and the Chicago Police Department operates five. Apparently, the City also exempts private security companies; there are two indoor firing ranges operated by private security companies in Chicago.
B. The Litigation
The plaintiffs are three Chicago residents, Rhonda Ezell, William Hespen, and Joseph Brown; and three organizations, Action Target, Inc.; the Second Amendment Foundation, Inc.; and the Illinois State Rifle Association. Action Target designs, builds, and furnishes firing ranges throughout the United States and would like to do so in Chicago. The Second Amendment Foundation and the Illinois Rifle Association are nonprofit associations whose members are firearms enthusiasts; among other activities, these organizations advocate for Second Amendment rights and have made arrangements to try to bring a mobile firing range to Chicago.
The plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order ("TRO"), a preliminary injunction, and a permanent injunction against the City's ban on firing ranges, and corresponding declaratory relief invalidating the ban. The district court twice denied a TRO, finding that the plaintiffs were not irreparably harmed. The parties conducted expedited discovery, and the court held a two-day hearing on the preliminary-injunction motion. The plaintiffs presented the testimony of representatives of Action Target, the Second Amendment Foundation, and the Illinois Rifle Association. Declarations from the three individual plaintiffs were already in the record, so they did not testify.
The City called two witnesses: Sergeant Daniel Bartoli, a former rangemaster for the Chicago Police Department, and Patricia Scudiero, Chicago's Zoning Commissioner. Bartoli testified that firing ranges can carry a risk of injury from unintentional discharge and raised concerns about criminals seeking to steal firearms from range users. He also explained the possible problem of contamination from lead residue left on range users' hands after shooting. He identified various measures that a firing range should take to reduce these risks. To prevent theft, he said a range should have a secure parking lot and only one entrance into its facilities. To avoid injury from unintentional discharge, a range should provide a separate location for the loading and unloading of firearms and should erect a permanent, opaque fence to deter bystanders from congregating around the facility. He also said a range should have running water onsite so users can wash lead residue from their hands after shooting.
Scudiero testified that Chicago's zoning code prohibits all property uses not expressly permitted and contains no provision
The City introduced evidence that there are 14 firing ranges open to the public and located within 50 miles of its borders. Of these, seven are located within 25 miles of the city, and five are located within 5 miles of the city.
Because the legal issues in the case had been fully briefed, the plaintiffs asked the court to consider the preliminary-injunction hearing as a trial on the merits. See FED.R.CIV.P. 65(a)(2) (permitting the court to "advance the trial on the merits and consolidate it with the [preliminary-injunction] hearing"). The court declined to do so and took the matter under advisement.
C. The Decision Below
Soon after the hearing, the district court issued a decision denying preliminary injunctive relief because the plaintiffs were neither irreparably harmed nor likely to succeed on the merits. The court's decision is a bit hard to follow; standing and merits inquiries are mixed in with the court's evaluation of irreparable harm. As we will explain, the court made several critical legal errors. To see how the decision got off-track requires that we identify its key holdings.
The judge began by "declin[ing] to adopt the intermediate scrutiny standard" of review, but held in the alternative that "even if" intermediate scrutiny applied, the "[p]laintiffs still fail to meet their burden of demonstrating irreparable harm." The judge said the organizational plaintiffs "do not have the necessary standing to demonstrate their irreparable harm" because "Heller and McDonald addressed an individual's right to possess a firearm" but "did not address an organization's right." Again, the court purported to enter an alternative holding: "Even if" the organizations had standing to assert a claim under Heller and McDonald, they "failed to present sufficient evidence ... that their constituency has been unable to comply with the statute." The court held that none of the plaintiffs were suffering irreparable harm because the injury in question was limited to the minor cost and inconvenience of having to travel outside the city to obtain the range training necessary to qualify for a Permit and money damages would be sufficient to compensate the plaintiffs for this travel-related injury if they ultimately prevailed.
On the plaintiffs' likelihood of success on the merits, the judge was skeptical that
Finally, the judge concluded that the balance of harms favored the City because the "potential harmful effects of firing ranges" outweighed any inconvenience the plaintiffs might experience from having to travel to ranges outside of Chicago. The court summarily rejected the plaintiffs' First Amendment claim, finding it underdeveloped. Alternatively, the court held that the range ban did not appear to implicate any expressive message.
The plaintiffs appealed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1) (authorizing immediate appeal of a decision granting or denying injunctive relief).
To win a preliminary injunction, a party must show that it has (1) no adequate remedy at law and will suffer irreparable harm if a preliminary injunction is denied and (2) some likelihood of success on the merits. See Christian Legal Soc'y v. Walker,
The district court got off on the wrong foot by accepting the City's argument that its ban on firing ranges causes only minimal harm to the plaintiffs — nothing more than the minor expense and inconvenience of traveling to one of 14 firing ranges located within 50 miles of the city limits — and this harm can be adequately compensated by money damages. This characterization of the plaintiffs' injury fundamentally misunderstands the form of this claim and rests on the mistaken premise that range training does not implicate the Second Amendment at all, or at most only minimally. The City's confused approach to this case led the district court to make legal errors on several fronts: (1) the organizational plaintiffs' standing; (2) the nature of the plaintiffs' harm; (3) the scope of the Second Amendment right as recognized in Heller and applied to the States in McDonald; and (4) the structure and standards for judicial review of laws alleged to infringe Second Amendment rights.
We start with the organizational plaintiffs' standing. Article III restricts the judicial power to actual "Cases" and " Controversies," a limitation understood to confine the federal judiciary to "the
We note first that the district court did not address the individual plaintiffs' standing, probably because it is not in serious doubt. Ezell, Hespen, and Brown are Chicago residents who own firearms and want to maintain proficiency in their use via target practice at a firing range. Ezell is the victim of three attempted burglaries and applied for a Chicago Firearm Permit to keep a handgun in her home for protection. Hespen is a retired Chicago police detective who maintains a collection of handguns, shotguns, and rifles. Brown is a U.S. Army veteran who was honorably discharged after service in World War II; he is currently chairman of the Marksmanship Committee of the Illinois unit of the American Legion and teaches a junior firearms course at an American Legion post outside the city. Ezell and Hespen left the city to complete the range training necessary to apply for a Permit to legalize their firearm possession in the city. Brown owns a firearm that he keeps outside the city's limits because he does not have a Permit.
The plaintiffs — all of them — frame their Second Amendment claim in two ways. First, they contend that the Amendment protects the right of law-abiding people to maintain proficiency in firearm use via marksmanship practice and the City's absolute ban on firing ranges violates this right. Second, they contend that the range ban impermissibly burdens the core Second Amendment right to possess firearms in the home for self-defense because it prohibits, everywhere in the city, the means of satisfying a condition the City imposes for lawful firearm possession. They seek a declaration that the range ban is invalid and an injunction blocking its enforcement.
Ezell and Hespen took affirmative steps to comply with the Ordinance's permitting process by completing the range-training requirement outside the city. Brown did not, so he must keep his firearm outside the city to avoid violating the Ordinance. For all three the City's ban on firing ranges inflicts continuous harm to their claimed right to engage in range training and interferes with their right to possess firearms for self-defense. These injuries easily support Article III standing.
Moreover, this is a pre-enforcement challenge to the Ordinance. The plaintiffs contend that the City's ban on firing ranges is wholly incompatible with the Second Amendment. It is well-established that "pre-enforcement challenges... are within Article III." Brandt v. Vill. of Winnetka, Ill.,
Regarding the organizational plaintiffs, however, the City's argument led the district court astray. The City emphasized that the Second Amendment protects an individual right, not an organizational one, and this point led the court to conclude that "the organizations do not have the necessary standing to demonstrate their irreparable harm."
The district court held in the alternative that the organizational plaintiffs "failed to present sufficient evidence to support their position that their constituency has been unable to comply with the statute." More specifically, the court held that the plaintiffs failed to produce "evidence of any one resident [of Chicago] who has been unable to travel to ... a range [or] has been unable to obtain [the] range training" required for a Permit. It's not clear whether these observations were directed at standing or the merits of the motion for a preliminary injunction; this discussion appears in the court's evaluation of irreparable harm. Either way, the point is irrelevant. Nothing depends on this kind of evidence. The availability of range training outside the city neither defeats the organizational plaintiffs' standing nor has anything to do with merits of the claim. The question is not whether or how easily Chicago residents can comply with the range-training requirement by traveling
B. Irreparable Harm and Adequacy of Remedy at Law
The City's misplaced focus on the availability of firing ranges outside the city also infected the district court's evaluation of irreparable harm. The judge's primary reason for rejecting the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction was that they had "failed to establish the irreparable harm they have suffered by requiring them to travel outside of the [c]ity's borders to obtain their firing[-]range permits." The judge thus framed the relevant harm as strictly limited to incidental travel burdens associated with satisfying the Ordinance's range-training requirement. The judge noted that for at least some — perhaps many — Chicago residents, complying with the range-training requirement did not appear to pose much of a hardship at all. She observed that it might actually be easier for some Chicagoans to travel to a firing range in the suburbs than to one located, say, at the opposite end of the city if ranges were permitted to locate within city limits. The judge thought it significant that none of the individual plaintiffs had "testif[ied] that s/he was unable to travel outside of the [c]ity's borders to obtain the one-hour range training and all three have shown that they are capable of doing so and have done so in the past." The court held that although the Ordinance may force the plaintiffs to travel longer distances to use a firing range, this was a "quantifiable expense that can be easily calculated as damages."
This reasoning assumes that the harm to a constitutional right is measured by the extent to which it can be exercised in another jurisdiction. That's a profoundly mistaken assumption. In the First Amendment context, the Supreme Court long ago made it clear that "`one is not to have the exercise of his liberty of expression in appropriate places abridged on the plea that it may be exercised in some other place.'" Schad v. Borough of Mt. Ephraim,
Focusing on individual travel harms was mistaken for another equally fundamental reason. The plaintiffs have challenged the firing-range ban on its face, not merely as applied in their particular circumstances. In a facial constitutional challenge, individual application facts do not matter. Once standing is established, the plaintiff's personal situation becomes irrelevant. It is enough that "[w]e have only the [statute] itself" and the "statement of basis and purpose that accompanied its promulgation." Reno v. Flores,
Though she did not specifically mention it, the judge might have had the Salerno principle in mind when she limited her focus to individual travel harms. Under Salerno a law is not facially unconstitutional unless it "is unconstitutional in all of its applications." Wash. State Grange v. Wash. State Republican Party, 552 U.S. 442, 449,
Here, the judge zeroed in on the occasional expense and inconvenience of having to travel to a firing range in the suburbs, but that's not the relevant constitutional harm. The plaintiffs contend that the Second Amendment protects the right to maintain proficiency in firearm use — including the right to train at a range — and the City's complete ban on range training violates this right. They also claim that the range ban impermissibly burdens the core Second Amendment right to possess firearms at home for protection because the Ordinance conditions lawful possession on range training but makes it impossible to satisfy this condition anywhere in the city. If they're right, then the range ban was unconstitutional when enacted and violates their Second Amendment rights every day it remains on the books. These are not application-specific harms calling for individual remedies.
In a facial challenge like this one, the claimed constitutional violation inheres in the terms of the statute, not its application. See Rosenkranz, The Subjects of the Constitution, 62 STAN. L.REV. at 1229-38. The remedy is necessarily directed at the statute itself and must be injunctive and declaratory; a successful facial attack means the statute is wholly invalid and cannot be applied to anyone. Chicago's law, if unconstitutional, is unconstitutional without regard to its application — or in all
Beyond this crucial point about the form of the claim, for some kinds of constitutional violations, irreparable harm is presumed. See 11A CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT ET AL., FEDERAL PRACTICE & PROCEDURE § 2948.1 (2d ed. 1995) ("When an alleged deprivation of a constitutional right is involved, most courts hold that no further showing of irreparable injury is necessary."). This is particularly true in First Amendment claims. See, e.g., Christian Legal Soc'y, 453 F.3d at 867 ("[V]iolations of First Amendment rights are presumed to constitute irreparable injuries...." (citing Elrod v. Burns,
C. Likelihood of Success on the Merits
Having rejected the plaintiffs' claim of irreparable harm, the district court only summarily addressed whether they were likely to succeed on the merits. Early on in her decision, the judge said she would not apply intermediate scrutiny to evaluate the constitutionality of the range ban — and by implication, rejected any form of heightened review. When she later returned to the merits, the judge suggested that banning range training might not implicate anyone's Second Amendment rights at all. She observed that although Chicago requires range training as a prerequisite to firearm possession, "the City does not have the ability to create a Constitutional right to that training." Instead, the judge thought the key question was "whether the individual's right to possess firearms within his residence expands to the right to train with that same firearm in a firing range located within the [c]ity's borders." This statement of the question ends the court's discussion of the merits.
There are several problems with this analysis. First, it is incomplete. The judge identified but did not evaluate the Second Amendment merits question. More importantly, the court framed the inquiry the wrong way. Finally, it was a mistake to reject heightened scrutiny. The judge was evidently concerned about the novelty of Second Amendment litigation and proceeded from a default position in favor of the City. The concern is understandable, but the default position cannot be reconciled with Heller.
1. Heller, McDonald, and a framework for Second Amendment litigation
It's true that Second Amendment litigation is new, and Chicago's ordinance is unlike any firearms law that has received appellate review since Heller. But that doesn't mean we are without a framework for how to proceed. The Supreme Court's approach to deciding Heller points in a general direction. Although the critical question in Heller — whether the Amendment secures an individual or collective right — was interpretive rather than doctrinal, the Court's decision method is instructive.
With little precedent to synthesize, Heller focused almost exclusively on the original public meaning of the Second Amendment, consulting the text and relevant historical materials to determine how the Amendment was understood at the time of ratification. This inquiry led the Court to conclude that the Second Amendment secures a pre-existing natural right to keep and bear arms; that the right is personal and not limited to militia service; and that the "central component of the right" is the right of armed self-defense,
For our purposes, however, we know that Heller's reference to "any standard of scrutiny" means any heightened standard of scrutiny; the Court specifically excluded rational-basis review. Id. at 628-29 & n. 27,
And in a much-noted passage, the Court carved out some exceptions:
Id. at 626-27,
These now-familiar passages from Heller hold several key insights about judicial review of laws alleged to infringe Second Amendment rights. First, the threshold inquiry in some Second Amendment cases will be a "scope" question: Is the restricted activity protected by the Second Amendment in the first place? See Eugene Volokh, Implementing the Right to Keep and Bear Arms for Self-Defense: An Analytical Framework and a Research Agenda, 56 UCLA L.REV. 1443, 1449. The answer requires a textual and historical inquiry into original meaning. Heller, 554 U.S. at 634-35,
McDonald confirms that when state- or local-government action is challenged, the focus of the original-meaning inquiry is carried forward in time; the Second Amendment's scope as a limitation on the States depends on how the right was understood when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified. See McDonald, 130 S.Ct. at 3038-42. Setting aside the ongoing debate about which part of the Fourteenth Amendment does the work of incorporation, and how, see id. at 3030-31 (plurality opinion of Alito, J.); id. at 3058-80 (Thomas, J., concurring); id. at 3089-99 (Stevens, J., dissenting); id. at 3120-21 (Breyer, J., dissenting), this wider historical lens is required if we are to follow the Court's lead in resolving questions about the scope of the Second Amendment by consulting its original public meaning as both a starting point and an important constraint on the analysis. See Heller, 554 U.S. at 610-19,
The Supreme Court's free-speech jurisprudence contains a parallel for this kind of threshold "scope" inquiry. The Court has long recognized that certain "well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech" — e.g., obscenity, defamation, fraud, incitement — are categorically "outside the reach" of the First Amendment. United States v. Stevens, ___ U.S. ___,
If the government cannot establish this — if the historical evidence is inconclusive or suggests that the regulated activity is not categorically unprotected — then there must be a second inquiry into the strength of the government's justification for restricting or regulating the exercise of Second Amendment rights. Heller's reference to "any ... standard of scrutiny" suggests as much. 554 U.S. at 628-29,
Both Heller and McDonald suggest that broadly prohibitory laws restricting the core Second Amendment right — like the handgun bans at issue in those cases, which prohibited handgun possession even in the home — are categorically unconstitutional. Heller, 554 U.S. at 628-35,
The approach outlined here does not undermine Skoien, 614 F.3d at 639-43, or United States v. Williams,
2. Applying the framework to Chicago's firing-range ban
The plaintiffs challenge only the City's ban on firing ranges, so our first question is whether range training is categorically unprotected by the Second Amendment. Heller and McDonald suggest to the contrary. The Court emphasized in both cases that the "central component" of the Second Amendment is the right to keep and bear arms for defense of self, family, and home. Heller, 554 U.S. at 599,
Indeed, the City considers live firingrange training so critical to responsible
For example, the City cites a 1790 Ohio statute that prohibited the discharge of a firearm before sunrise, after sunset, or within one-quarter of a mile from the nearest building. Act of Aug. 4, 1790, Ch. XIII, § 4, in 1 The Statutes of Ohio and of the Northwestern Territory 104 (Chase ed. 1833). This statute is not directly related to controlled target practice. A similar 1746 statute limiting the discharge of firearms in Boston provided an exception for target practice: City residents could "fir[e] at a Mark or Target for the Exercise of their Skill and Judgment ... at the lower End of the Common" if they obtained permission from the "Field Officers of the Regiment in Boston"; they could also "fir[e] at a Mark from the Several Batteries in" Boston with permission from the "Captain General." Act of May 28, 1746, Ch. X, in Acts and Laws of the Massachusetts Bay 208 (Kneeland ed. 1746).
The City cites other eighteenth- and nineteenth-century statutes regulating the discharge of firearms in cities, but most of these allowed citizens to obtain a permit or license to engage in firearms practice from the governor or city council.
To be sure, a few of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century statutes cited by the City might accurately be described as general prohibitions on discharging firearms within cities. Three of these, however, had clear fire-suppression purposes and do not support the proposition that target practice at a safely sited and properly equipped firing range enjoys no Second Amendment protection whatsoever.
We proceed, then, to the second inquiry, which asks whether the City's restriction on range training survives Second Amendment scrutiny. As we have explained, this requires us to select an appropriate standard of review. Although the Supreme Court did not do so in either Heller or McDonald, the Court did make it clear that the deferential rational-basis standard is out, and with it the presumption of constitutionality. Heller, 554 U.S. at 628 n. 27,
The district court specifically decided against an intermediate standard of scrutiny but did not settle on any other, then sided with the City "even if" intermediate scrutiny applied. A choice must be made. The City urges us to import the "undue burden" test from the Court's abortion cases, see, e.g., Planned Parenthood of Se. Pa. v. Casey,
In free-speech cases, the applicable standard of judicial review depends on the nature and degree of the governmental burden on the First Amendment right and sometimes also on the specific iteration of the right. For example, "[c]ontent-based regulations are presumptively invalid," R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul,
In election-law cases, regulations affecting the expressive association rights of voters, candidates, and parties are subject to a fluctuating standard of review that varies with the severity of the burden on the right; laws imposing severe burdens get strict scrutiny, while more modest regulatory measures need only be reasonable, politically neutral, and justified by an important governmental interest. See Crawford v. Marion Cnty. Election Bd., 553 U.S. 181, 190-91,
Similarly, restrictions imposed on adult bookstores are reviewed under an intermediate standard of scrutiny that requires the municipality to present "evidence that the restrictions actually have public benefits great enough to justify any curtailment of speech." Annex Books, Inc. v. City of Indianapolis,
Labels aside, we can distill this First Amendment doctrine and extrapolate a few general principles to the Second Amendment context. First, a severe burden on the core Second Amendment right of armed self-defense will require an extremely strong public-interest justification and a close fit between the government's means and its end. Second, laws restricting activity lying closer to the margins of the Second Amendment right, laws that merely regulate rather than restrict, and modest burdens on the right may be more easily justified. How much more easily depends on the relative severity of the burden and its proximity to the core of the right.
In Skoien we required a "form of strong showing" — a/k/a "intermediate scrutiny" — in a Second Amendment challenge to a prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9), which prohibits the possession of firearms by persons convicted of a domestic-violence misdemeanor. 614 F.3d at 641. We held that "logic and data" established a "substantial relation" between dispossessing domestic-violence misdemeanants and the important governmental goal of "preventing armed mayhem." Id. at 642. Intermediate scrutiny was appropriate in Skoien because the claim was not made by a "law-abiding, responsible citizen" as in Heller, 554 U.S. at 635,
Here, in contrast, the plaintiffs are the "law-abiding, responsible citizens" whose Second Amendment rights are entitled to full solicitude under Heller, and their claim comes much closer to implicating the core of the Second Amendment right. The City's firing-range ban is not merely regulatory; it prohibits the "law-abiding, responsible citizens" of Chicago from engaging in target practice in the controlled environment of a firing range. This is a serious encroachment on the right to maintain proficiency in firearm use, an important corollary to the meaningful exercise of the core right to possess firearms for self-defense. That the City conditions gun possession on range training is an additional reason to closely scrutinize the range ban. All this suggests that a more rigorous showing than that applied in Skoien should be required, if not quite "strict scrutiny." To be appropriately respectful of the individual rights at issue in this case, the City bears the burden of establishing a strong public-interest justification for its ban on range training: The City must establish a close fit between the
At this stage of the proceedings, the City has not come close to satisfying this standard. In the district court, the City presented no data or expert opinion to support the range ban, so we have no way to evaluate the seriousness of its claimed public-safety concerns. Indeed, on this record those concerns are entirely speculative and, in any event, can be addressed through sensible zoning and other appropriately tailored regulations. That much is apparent from the testimony of the City's own witnesses, particularly Sergeant Bartoli, who testified to several common-sense range safety measures that could be adopted short of a complete ban.
The City maintains that firing ranges create the risk of accidental death or injury and attract thieves wanting to steal firearms. But it produced no evidence to establish that these are realistic concerns, much less that they warrant a total prohibition on firing ranges. In the First Amendment context, the government must supply actual, reliable evidence to justify restricting protected expression based on secondary public-safety effects. See Alameda Books, Inc., 535 U.S. at 438, 122 S.Ct. 1728 (A municipality defending zoning restrictions on adult bookstores cannot "get away with shoddy data or reasoning. The municipality's evidence must fairly support the municipality's rationale for its ordinance."); see also Annex Books, Inc. v. City of Indianapolis,
By analogy here, the City produced no empirical evidence whatsoever and rested its entire defense of the range ban on speculation about accidents and theft. Much of the focus in the district court was on the possible hazards of mobile firing ranges. The City hypothesized that one cause of range-related injury could be stray bullets, but this seems highly implausible insofar as a properly equipped indoor firing range is concerned. The district court credited the plaintiffs' evidence that "mobile ranges are next to Sam's Clubs and residences and shopping malls and in parking lots, and there's not been any difficulties with them in those places." Commissioner Scudiero acknowledged that the law-enforcement and private-security firing ranges in Chicago are located near schools, churches, parks, and stores, and they operate safely in those locations. And Sergeant Bartoli testified about the availability of straightforward range-design measures that can effectively guard against accidental injury. He mentioned, for example, that ranges should be fenced and should designate appropriate locations for the loading and unloading of firearms. Other precautionary measures might include limiting the concentration of people and firearms in a range's facilities, the times when firearms can be loaded, and the types of ammunition allowed. See also, e.g., NRA RANGE SOURCE BOOK (providing "basic and advanced guidance to
At the preliminary-injunction hearing, the City highlighted an additional public-safety concern also limited to mobile ranges: the risk of contamination from lead residue left on range users' hands after firing a gun. Sergeant Bartoli was asked a series of questions about the importance of hand-washing after shooting; he said that "lucrative amounts of [cold running] water and soap" were required to ensure that lead contaminants were removed. The City argued below that mobile firing ranges might not be sufficiently equipped for this purpose, suggesting that mobile ranges would have inadequate restroom facilities and might have to rely on "port-a-potties." This sparked a discussion about the adequacy of the water supply available at a standard "port-a-potty." The City continued on this topic until the judge cut it short by acknowledging her own familiarity with "port-a-potties." On appeal the City raised but did not dwell on its concern about lead contamination. For good reason: It cannot be taken seriously as a justification for banishing all firing ranges from the city. To raise it at all suggests pretext.
Perhaps the City can muster sufficient evidence to justify banning firing ranges everywhere in the city, though that seems quite unlikely. As the record comes to us at this stage of the proceedings, the firing-range ban is wholly out of proportion to the public interests the City claims it serves. Accordingly, the plaintiffs' Second Amendment claim has a strong likelihood of success on the merits.
D. Balance of Harms
The remaining consideration for preliminary injunctive relief is the balance of harms. It should be clear from the foregoing discussion that the harms invoked by the City are entirely speculative and in any event may be addressed by more closely tailored regulatory measures. Properly regulated firing ranges open to the public should not pose significant threats to public health and safety. On the other side of the scale, the plaintiffs have established a strong likelihood that they are suffering violations of their Second Amendment rights every day the range ban is in effect. The balance of harms favors the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs asked the district court to enjoin the enforcement of Chicago Municipal Code § 8-20-280 — the prohibition on "[s]hooting galleries, firearm ranges, or any other place where firearms are discharged." They are entitled to a preliminary injunction to that effect. To be effective, however, the injunction must also prevent the City from enforcing other provisions of the Ordinance that operate indirectly to prohibit range training. The plaintiffs have identified several provisions of the Ordinance that implicate activities integral to range training: CHI. MUN.CODE §§ 8-20-020 (prohibiting the possession of handguns outside the home), 8-20-030 (prohibiting the possession of long guns outside the home or business), 8-20-080 (prohibiting the possession of ammunition without a corresponding Permit and registration certificate), 8-20-100 (prohibiting the transfer of firearms and ammunition except through inheritance), 8-24-010 (prohibiting the discharge of firearms except for self-defense, defense of another,
Finally, because range training is required for the issuance of a Chicago Firearm Permit, a registration certificate, and ultimately, for lawful possession of any firearm, see CHI. MUN.CODE §§ 8-20-110(a), 8-20-140(a)-(b), the firing-range ban implicates not only the right to train at a range but also the core Second Amendment right to possess firearms for self-defense. Accordingly, the preliminary injunction should include sections 8-20-110(a) and 8-20-140(a) to the extent that those provisions operate to prohibit otherwise eligible persons from "carry[ing] or possess[ing] a firearm" at a range without a Permit or registration certificate while they are trying to complete the range-training prerequisite for lawful firearm possession.
Those are the bounds of the proposed preliminary injunction, which should be entered upon remand. The City worries that entering an order enjoining the range ban would allow "anyone [to] park a mobile range anywhere, anytime"; shoddy ranges operated by unlicensed instructors and lacking adequate hand-washing facilities could crop up in Chicago's most dangerous neighborhoods. To the contrary, a preliminary injunction against the range ban does not open the door to a parade of firing-range horribles. Cf. McDonald, 130 S.Ct. at 3047 ("Despite municipal respondents' doomsday proclamations, incorporation does not imperil every law regulating firearms."). The City may promulgate zoning and safety regulations governing the operation of ranges not inconsistent with the Second Amendment rights of its citizens; the plaintiffs may challenge those regulations, but not based on the terms of this injunction. As for the City's concern about a "regulatory vacuum" between the issuance of the preliminary injunction and the promulgation of firing-range zoning and safety regulations, we note that it faced a similar dilemma after the Supreme Court decided McDonald. The sky did not fall. The City Council moved with dispatch and enacted the Ordinance just four days later.
The plaintiffs have established their entitlement to a preliminary injunction based on their Second Amendment claim, so we need not address the alternative argument that range training is protected expression under the First Amendment. Given the strong likelihood of success on the former claim, the latter claim seems like surplusage.
For the foregoing reasons, we REVERSE the district court's order denying the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and REMAND with instructions to enter a preliminary injunction consistent with this opinion.
ROVNER, Circuit Judge, concurring in the judgment.
Stung by the result of McDonald v. City of Chicago, ___ U.S. ___,
Even if the City were to drop the live-range requirement, though, the plaintiffs claim an independent Second Amendment right to maintain proficiency in firearm use by practicing live-range shooting. The majority goes much farther than is required or justified, however, in finding that the plaintiffs' claim for live-range training is so closely allied to "core" Second Amendment rights that a standard akin to strict scrutiny should be applied. Granted, the right to use a firearm in the home for self-defense would be seriously impaired if gun owners were prevented from obtaining the training necessary to use their weapons safely for that purpose. We do not yet know how a complete ban on any firearms training would be received by the Supreme Court, but Heller and McDonald strongly suggest that a comprehensive training ban would not pass constitutional muster. But the City has not banned all firearms training; it has banned only one type of training. There is no ban on classroom training. There is no ban on training with a simulator and several realistic simulators are commercially available, complete with guns that mimic the recoil of firearms discharging live ammunition. See e.g. http://www.virtrasystems.com/law-enforcement-training/virtra-range-le (last visited July 6, 2011); http://www.meggitttrainingsystems.com/main.php?id=25&name=LE_Virtual_Bluefire_Weapons (last visited July 6, 2011); http://www.ontargetfirearmstraining.com/simulator.php (last visited July 6, 2011). It is possible that, with simulated training, technology will obviate the need for live-range training. In any case, the limited record to date suggests that even the City considers live-range training necessary to the safe operation of guns in the home for self-defense. A complete ban on live ranges in the City, therefore, is unlikely to withstand scrutiny under any standard of review. The plaintiffs have a strong likelihood of succeeding on the merits of this claim. Public safety interests apply on both sides of the balance: there are obvious safety risks associated with operating live shooting ranges (more on that later), but there are perhaps equally compelling safety interests in ensuring that gun owners possess the skills necessary to handle their weapons safely. On the record as it currently stands, the district court should have enjoined that part of the ordinance banning all live ranges within City limits. For that reason, I concur in the judgment.
The majority's analysis of laws in effect during the time period surrounding the adoption of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments helps to prove the point that no scrutiny beyond that described in Skoien is necessary. The majority concedes that the City has presented us with "a number of founding-era, antebellum, and Reconstruction state and local laws that limited the discharge of firearms in urban environments." Ante, at 705. Some jurisdictions enacted outright bans on discharging firearms in city limits. Some laws limited the time, place and manner of firearms discharges. Some laws required permission from a government authority before discharging firearms in urban areas. The majority finds these laws irrelevant to the Second Amendment analysis here because they are "not specific to controlled target practice and, in any event, contained significant carveouts and exemptions." Ante, at 705. The majority also distinguishes them as regulatory measures rather than outright bans on firing ranges. Finally, the majority dismisses some of the laws because they were clearly aimed at fire suppression, which the majority believes would not be a concern at a safely sited and properly equipped firing range.
But these observations contravene rather than support the majority's ensuing analysis. First of all, none of the 18th and 19th century jurisdictions cited by the City and dismissed by the majority were apparently concerned that banning or limiting the discharge of firearms within city limits would seriously impinge the rights of gun owners or limit their ability to learn how to safely use their weapons. Citizens living in densely populated areas had few legitimate reasons to discharge their firearms near their homes, and likely used them mostly when out in the country. Opportunities to hunt and practice outside of city limits were likely adequate for training purposes. Given the majority's nod to the relevance of historical regulation, curt dismissal of actual regulations of firearms discharges in urban areas is inappropriate.
Second, as I noted above, many of these jurisdictions regulated the time, place and manner of gun discharges. For example, as the majority itself points out, one statute prohibited the discharge of firearms before sunrise, after sunset, or within one quarter mile of the nearest building. Others prohibited firearms discharge without specific permissions and only then at specific locations. The "time, place and manner" framework of the First Amendment seems well-suited to the regulation of live-range training within a densely populated urban area. A complete ban on live-range training in Chicago, of course, likely would not survive under the intermediate scrutiny
Finally, that some of those early laws were concerned with fire suppression does not mean that they are irrelevant to our analysis today. On the contrary, these laws inform us that public safety was a paramount value to our ancestors, a value that, in some circumstances, trumped the Second Amendment right to discharge a firearm in a particular place. Analogizing to the First Amendment context, a categorical limit is sometimes appropriate, as in the case of bans on obscenity, defamation, and incitement to crime. See Skoien, 614 F.3d at 641. In the same way that a person may not with impunity cry out "Fire!" in a crowded theater, a person in 18th century New York, and 19th century Chicago and New Orleans could not fire a gun in the tinder boxes that these cities had become. See Footnote 14 above. If we are to acknowledge the historical context and the values of the period when the Second and Fourteenth Amendments were adopted, then we must accept and apply the full understanding of the citizenry at that time. In the instance of firearms ordinances which concerned themselves with fire safety, we must acknowledge that public safety was seen to supercede gun rights at times. Although fire is no longer the primary public safety concern when firearms are discharged within City limits, historical context tells us that cities may take public safety into account in setting reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on the discharge of firearms within City limits.
The majority's summary dismissal of the City's concern for public safety related to live gun ranges is to my mind naive. One need only perform a simple internet search on "gun range accidents" to see the myriad ways that gun owners manage to shoot themselves and others while practicing in these supposedly safe environments. From dropping a loaded gun in a parking lot to losing control of a strong weapon on recoil, gun owners have caused considerable damage to themselves and others at live gun ranges. To say that the City's concerns for safety are "entirely speculative" is unfounded. Ante, at 709. The plaintiffs themselves "do not doubt that gun ranges may be regulated in the interest of public safety." Reply Brief at 22. See also Reply Brief at 26-27 (conceding that the City may except certain parts of the City, set range distances from other uses, require a license or permission for target practice, and regulate the operation and location of gun ranges). The plaintiffs' concessions regarding gun range regulations are by no means a complete list of restrictions the City may impose on gun ranges. At this stage of the litigation, the City has not yet had an opportunity to develop a full record on the safety issues raised by placing live gun ranges in an urban environment. Common sense tells us that guns are inherently dangerous; responsible gun owners treat them with great care. Unfortunately, not all gun owners are responsible. The City has a right to impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on the operation of
As for the remaining parts of the ordinance challenged by the plaintiffs, I agree that, to the extent that these provisions entirely prohibit gun owners from practicing at live ranges, they must be enjoined for the time being. As far as I can tell, though, the plaintiffs have not presented any evidence demonstrating, for example, that prohibiting gun owners from possessing guns outside the home will impinge on their ability to practice at a range. As the plaintiffs' own witnesses testified, some ranges lend patrons guns with which to practice. But if the ordinance both prohibits gun owners from transporting their own weapons and prevents ranges from lending weapons for practice, then those aspects of the ordinance must be enjoined.
The ordinance admittedly was designed to make gun ownership as difficult as possible. The City has legitimate, indeed overwhelming, concerns about the prevalence of gun violence within City limits. But the Supreme Court has now spoken in Heller and McDonald on the Second Amendment right to possess a gun in the home for self-defense and the City must come to terms with that reality. Any regulation on firearms ownership must respect that right. For that reason, I respectfully concur in the judgment.
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