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Tipsheet

Tennessee Court Upholds Second Amendment Rights for Public Housing Tenants

AP Photo/Wilson Ring

On Thursday, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled that public housing agencies in the state are prohibited from including provisions in their leases that prevent tenants from having firearms in their homes. 

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The three-judge panel made the decision unanimously, stating that it violated the Second Amendment, according to the Associated Press. In the ruling, the judges cited a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in June that struck down a New York gun control law. 

Judge Frank Clement wrote in the decision that “in light of the Supreme Court’s most recent decision in Bruen and keeping in mind the presumptively unconstitutional status of Columbia Housing’s policy based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller, we conclude that a total ban on the ability of law-abiding residents—like Mr. Braden—to possess a handgun within their public housing unit for the purpose of self-defense is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment."

The case surrounded a lawsuit filed by Kinsley Brandon, who signed a lease agreement in April 2018 with Columbia Housing & Redevelopment Corporation. The lease did not allow Brandon to possess a gun on the premises, AP noted. Thursday’s decision could set up an appeal to the state Supreme Court, which has a Republican majority. 

“As a threshold matter, we recognize that Columbia Housing is a government entity acting as a landlord of the Creekside Acres residences,” Clement added in Thursday’s opinion. “For this reason, the actions of Columbia Housing and the policies of Creekside Acres must conform to the (U.S.) Constitution.”

In June, Townhall covered how the Supreme Court decided the case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, which surrounded a law in the state that required permit applicants to show “proper cause” before they could be licensed to carry a concealed weapon.

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The ruling came down 6-3 with Justice Clarence Thomas penning the majority opinion. Thomas wrote that the Second Amendment should not be treated differently than other rights outlined in the Bill of Rights. 

The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self defense is not “a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees.” We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self defense. New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment in that it prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

The Supreme Court's decision paved the way for other federal court rulings in recent months. 

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court vacated a Massachusetts gun law that imposed a lifetime ban on purchasing handguns for anyone convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors involving the possession of guns. The law included the need for a license to purchase or possess a pistol.

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The same week, a federal judge in New York blocked key provisions of a state law that was enacted after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bruen. The law restricted who can carry a handgun in public, where these guns can be carried and where firearms can be purchased. The judge determined that certain components of the law went too far, including a provision that gun license applicants turn over information about their social media accounts as part of a “character and conduct” screening.

Last week, a federal judge in West Virginia ruled that part of a federal law that prohibits the possession of a firearm with an “altered, obliterated, or removed” serial number is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin ruled that the law was not consistent with the United States' "historical tradition of firearm regulation," according to Reuters.

"I can find no authority for the idea that a firearm without a serial number would meet the historical definition of a dangerous or unusual firearm. In fact, as the Government points out, the commercial requirement that a serial number be placed on a firearm 'does not impair the use or functioning of a weapon in any way,'" Goodwin wrote in the ruling.

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