The Portland City Code and Unlawful Possession of a Firearm
Since the Bruen opinion from the United States Supreme Court, there have been 2nd Amendment challenges to felon in possession of a firearm (both facial and as-applied), felon in possession of body armor, unlawful possession of a concealed weapon and many more. Each of these has a chance of being successful and some in fact have been successful in certain federal courts. Nothing of course is guaranteed. However, there is one argument where I believe the odds are overwhelmingly in our favor. And that's a challenge to the Portland City Code's prohibition on carrying a loaded weapon.
The key thing to know about the Portland City Code is that it prohibits open carry, as well as concealed carry. Why does that matter? See this quote from Bruen.
- In the early to mid-19th century, some States began enacting laws that proscribed the concealed carry of pistols and other small weapons. As we recognized in Heller, “the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that [these] prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues.” 554 U S, 30 at 626, 128 S Ct 2783, 171 L Ed. 2d 637. Respondents unsurprisingly cite these statutes—and decisions upholding them—as evidence that States were historically free to ban public carry.
- In fact, however, the history reveals a consensus that States could not ban public carry altogether. Respondents’ cited opinions agreed that concealed carry prohibitions were constitutional only if they did not similarly prohibit open carry. That was true in Alabama. See State v. Reid, 1 Ala. 612, 616, 619-621 (1840). It was also true in Louisiana. See State v. Chandler, 5 La. 489, 490 (1850). Kentucky, meanwhile, went one step further—the State Supreme Court invalidated a concealed-carry prohibition. See Bliss v. Commonwealth, 12 Ky. 9 (1822). The Georgia Supreme Court’s decision in Nunn v. State, 1 Ga. 243 (1846), is particularly instructive. Georgia’s 1837 statute broadly prohibited “wearing” or “carrying” pistols “as arms of offence or defence,” without distinguishing between concealed and open carry. 1837 Ga. Acts 90, §1. To the extent the 1837 Act prohibited “carrying certain weapons secretly,” the court explained, it was “valid.” Nunn, 1 Ga., at 251. But to the extent the Act also prohibited “bearing arms openly,” the court went on, it was “in conflict with the Constitutio[n] and void.” Ibid.; see also Heller, 554 U. S., at 612, 128 S. Ct. 2783, 171 L. Ed. 2d 637. The Georgia Supreme Court’s treatment of the State’s general prohibition on the public carriage of handguns indicates that it was considered beyond the constitutional pale in antebellum America to altogether prohibit public carry.
- Finally, we agree that Tennessee’s prohibition on carrying “publicly or privately” any “belt or pocket pisto[l],” 1821 Tenn. Acts ch. 13, p. 15, was, on its face, uniquely severe, see Heller, 554 U. S., at 629, 128 S. Ct. 2783, 171 L. Ed. 2d 637. That said, when the Tennessee Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of a substantively identical successor provision, see 1870 Tenn. Acts ch. 13, §1, p. 28, the court read this language to permit the public carry of larger, military-style pistols because any categorical prohibition on their carry would “violat[e] the constitutional right to keep arms.” Andrews v. State, 50 Tenn. 165, 187 (1871); see also Heller, 554 U. S., at 629, 128 S. Ct. 2783, 171 L. Ed. 2d 637 (discussing Andrews). All told, these antebellum state-court decisions evince a consensus view that States could not altogether prohibit the public carry of “arms” protected by the Second Amendment or state analogues.
N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Ass'n v. Bruen, 142 S Ct 2111, 2146-2147, 213 L Ed 2d 387, 35 427-429 (2022) [Emphasis added.]
Bruen put the burden on the state to prove the existence of a historical analog to any modern-day firearm prohibition. The good news for the state is that there are plenty of examples of antebellum statutes regarding the open carry of firearms. The bad news for the state is that they were all found unconstitutional.
I highly encourage defense lawyers to raise this argument. More than any other firearm prohibition, this one is likely to be found unconstitutional.