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Virginia Ducks Suit Over Nonresident Gun Laws

(CN) - The 4th Circuit affirmed dismissal of claims that Virginia violates the Second Amendment in banning the sale of handguns to out-of-state residents.

Individual plaintiffs Michelle Lane and Matthew and Amanda Welling, all of Washington, D.C., joined the Second Amendment Foundation in suing Attorney General Eric Holder and Virginia State Police superintendent Steven Flaherty.

In their complaint, they challenged the constitutionality of a federal statute that restricts the interstate transfers of handguns, as well as a Virginia law prohibiting firearms dealers in the state from selling handguns to nonresidents.

The laws and regulations at issue here apply to federal firearms licensees, in other words, a licensed gun dealer. An individual who wishes to buy a handgun from an out-of-state source must arrange for the handgun to be delivered to an FFL holder in their home state that can then finalize the sale.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms issued implementing regulations that closely track the federal statute.

Like the federal law, Virginia's statute permits the sale or transfer of a rifle or shotgun to a nonresident of Virginia, but prohibits the direct sale or transfer of a handgun to a nonresident.

Lane complained that she wanted to purchase two handguns in Virginia, but was initially unable to take possession of them because Washington's sole FFL had lost his lease and temporarily gone out of business. She contended that the laws hampered her ability to retrieve the firearms directly from the seller in Virginia.

Ultimately, the FFL in Washington reopened, and Lane retrieved the guns she wanted.

The Wellings meanwhile said they were stymied in their efforts to acquire a gun from a family member. They said they would buy more guns if they did not have to comply with the "burdensome and expensive" legal requirements.

Lane and the Wellings also say that Washington residents must pay their local FFLS an unfair transfer fee to obtain interstate hanguns.

U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee dismissed the complaint for lack of standing, concluding that application of the challenged laws could not have injured the plaintiffs. Such injury would instead come from third parties, such as the FFLs that charge additional fees.

A three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit affirmed Monday.

Unlike precedent involving interstate sales of alcohol, the plaintiffs here were not prevented from obtaining their desired handguns.

"At worst, they are burdened by additional costs and logistical hurdles," Judge Allyson Duncan wrote for the Richmond, Va.-based federal appeals court.

"These minor inconveniences are distinct from an absolute deprivation," Duncan added.

The plaintiffs also failed to trace any demonstrated injury to the challenged laws.

None of the laws at issue direct FFLs to impose the charges being fought by the plaintiffs, according to the ruling.

"Because any harm to the plaintiffs results from the actions of third parties not before this court, the plaintiffs are unable to demonstrate traceability," Duncan wrote.

Though the Second Amendment Foundation says that the law harms it by paying for the legal battle, Duncan said this is a self-inflicted cost.

"Although a diversion of resources might harm the organization by reducing the funds available for other purposes, it results not from any actions taken by [the defendant], but rather from the [organization's] own budgetary choices," Duncan wrote.

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