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Attorney General James Fights to Defend States’ Abilities to Protect Residents from Gun Violence

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James, as part of a coalition of 18 attorneys general from around the nation, is fighting to ensure states have the right to use various means to protect their residents from gun violence. In an amicus brief supporting the defendants in Jones v. Becerra, Attorney General James argued in defense of two recent amendments to California’s penal code that restrict the sale of long guns and semi-automatic centerfire rifles by federally-licensed firearm dealers to individuals under the age of 21. The coalition further argues that states have the right to enact reasonable firearm regulations that protect public safety and reduce the prevalence of gun violence.

“Gun violence in America remains a serious threat to us all, whether we live in New York, California, or any other state,” said Attorney General James. “States have every right to take the necessary steps to protect their residents from gun violence, which is why we are taking this action to stop another avoidable tragedy. The last thing we need to do is to make dangerous weapons more accessible to young people. This is about protecting our residents from experiencing more pain, more death, and more gun violence.”

In the brief — filed in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit — the coalition argues that laws restricting the sale of long guns and semi-automatic rifles to individuals under the age of 21, unless they fall into enumerated exceptions, are reasonable requirements that California has the right to adopt because:

The Second Amendment allows states to enact new and varied measures in response to gun violence: The brief explains that states are entitled to adopt reasonable restrictions to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their residents, which includes preventing crime and minimizing gun violence. All states have imposed age-based regulations on the sale and use of, and access to, firearms within their borders.

California has demonstrated that its age-based regulations promote public safety and prevent gun violence: In addition to being consistent with regulations historically imposed by numerous other states and the federal government, these regulations are reasonably related to the state’s interest in promoting public safety and preventing gun violence, as demonstrated by social science evidence, legislative history, and statistical analyses. The coalition argues that states have the right to innovate or amend past legislative models to combat difficult and evolving problems, such as gun violence and mass shootings.

While the plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that California’s laws unduly infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of individuals aged 18-20, a lower court previously denied the plaintiffs’ request for preliminary injunctive relief after concluding that they are not likely to succeed on the merits of their claims.

Separately, Attorney General James has fought to support commonsense gun reform while in office. In a separate amicus brief, filed in June 2020, Attorney General James fought to defend California in another case to ensure states maintain the right to use various means to protect their residents from gun violence.

Additionally, in July 2020, Attorney General James got 17 websites that manufacture and/or sell firearms or firearms components to cease selling nearly complete assault weapons into New York state, after she directed the companies behind these websites to do so in September 2019.

Also, in January 2020, Attorney General James and a coalition of attorneys general filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s efforts to allow 3D-printed gun files to be released on the internet. These files would allow anyone to go online to simply use easily, downloadable files with specifications for particular guns, including AR-15s, and then manufacture unregistered and untraceable 3D-printed firearms, in essence, a ghost gun. Attorney General James took a number of additional actions related to this lawsuit, including securing a preliminary injunction against the Trump Administration in March 2020 and calling on former U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and former U.S. Attorney General William Barr to enforce federal laws and stop companies from disseminating dangerous files for 3D-printed gun files on the internet in April 2020.

Joining Attorney General James in filing this brief are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.


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