U.S. May Block Gun Sales to Citizens Living Abroad

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The government can prohibit sales of guns for self-defense to American citizens residing outside its borders, a federal judge ruled.
     U.S. citizen Stephen Dearth lives in Canada and was unable to buy firearms in the U.S. on two occasions. Federal Form 4473 requires purchasers of firearms to provide their state of residence, preventing Dearth from legally completing the document.
     Dearth and the Second Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit committed to the right to bear arms, sued Attorney General Eric Holder for declaratory and injunctive relief in March 2009.
     The District of Columbia District Court dismissed the complaint for lack of standing. However, the D.C. Circuit Court reversed the dismissal and remanded Dearth’s claims in April 2011.
     U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins granted the government’s motion for summary judgment on Thursday.
     Wilkins found that none of the six counts alleged by Dearth amounted to constitutional violations.
     The judge stated that, “an initial point of contention is how to construe the challenged laws. Are they restrictions on possession, or are they longstanding conditions and qualifications on commercial sale?
     “The court concludes they are the latter,” Wilkins wrote.
     Much like the state laws that have prevented non-residents from buying firearms for more than 100 years, the federal restrictions have a similar intent, the judge found.
     “The effect of the federal statute is to require a firearm purchaser to be a state resident so that he or she submits to the jurisdiction and authority of some state – any state – so that the firearms purchase can be regulated by state law,” Wilkins wrote. “Thus, the federal statutes serve a similar purpose as the longstanding state statutes governing the commercial sale of firearms.”
     Dearth argued that his inability to buy a gun for self-defense while visiting his friends and relatives in the U.S. violated his Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
     But Wilkins found that Dearth “…has the ability to bring his firearm from Canada with him when he visits the United States. Critically, Dearth concedes that ‘he would access [firearms] for lawful sporting purposes as well as for other purposes, including self-defense, while visiting the United States’…Thus, Dearth clearly has the ability to borrow or rent a firearm for lawful sporting purposes and then also use that firearm for self-defense. This would be a much different case if Dearth had none of those options.”
     Dearth also failed to show that the gun restrictions infringe on the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment by requiring him to give up his ability to buy firearms if he chooses to travel internationally.
     “As the government correctly points out, these provisions do not prevent Dearth from travelling internationally and, therefore, they do not implicate any Fifth Amendment liberty interest in international travel,” Wilkins wrote. “There is nothing to suggest that the challenged statutes present either a direct or coincidental restriction on a U.S. citizen’s ability to travel internationally. The statutes merely require that Dearth establish residency in a state in order to purchase or acquire additional firearms for purposes other than sporting purposes. The statutes place no direct restriction on Dearth’s ability to travel within the United States or internationally.”
     Wilkins found that the restrictions were rationally based. “The provisions serve the substantial government interests of protecting public safety, combating violent crime, and controlling the flow of firearms across state and international borders,” Wilkins stated.
     The order concludes that the same rational basis holds true against Dearth’s Equal Protection claims.

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