Weapons Fee Survives Second Amendment Challenge

California’s allocation of a fee on firearms sales to fund enforcement efforts against illegal weapons possession survived a Second Amendment appeals challenge Thursday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the California law that $5 out of the $19 fee on firearms transfers  could constitutionally be used for the state’s fund to fight illegal gun possession.

California has regulated firearms sales and transfers for a century and began charging a fee to cover the cost of running background checks.  It was later expanded in the 1980s to include costs associated with enforcement activities related to weapons sales and transfers.

In 2011, state lawmakers expanded the fee program again to allow a $5 portion of the fee to be used for “firearms-related regulatory enforcement on the sale, purchase, possession, loan or transfer of firearms.”

For the first time, the law allowed the fee to fund enforcement targeting illegal firearm possession after the point of sale.  That prompted a lawsuit challenging the $5 portion of the $19 fee that would be used for this enforcement. The suit alleged it violated the Constitution’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

“Where a law poses a minimal burden on core Second Amendment rights in furtherance of an important government interest, the federal courts have universally upheld it,” wrote Chief Judge Sidney Thomas. “We do the same here,” he said.

The panel found the state demonstrated the fee promoted an important public safety interest.

Joining Thomas are Judges Ferdinand Fernandez and Mary Murguia.

Case: Bauer v. Becerra, No. 15-15428



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