Federal Court Rules FPC Second Amendment Lawsuit Against Wake County, NC Sheriff May Proceed

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RALEIGH, NC (February 20, 2021) — This week, Federal District Court Judge Louise Flanagan of the Eastern District of North Carolina ordered that FPC’s lawsuit against Wake County, North Carolina Sheriff Gerald M. Baker can proceed. The opinion in Stafford v. Baker can be found at FPCLegal.org.

As part of FPC’s nationwide efforts to address closures and shut-downs during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Organization filed the lawsuit last March in response to Baker’s decision to shut down his firearm permit processing, refusing new applications for pistol purchase permits and handgun carry permits. By partially denying the Sheriff’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, “plaintiffs’ claims for nominal damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 … and associated claims for declaratory relief and attorney’s fees” may proceed and the case will move on to the discovery phase of trial.

A “a complete suspension in accepting [pistol permit] applications does not reasonably fit with the government objective to ameliorate ‘concerns over social distancing’ and ‘concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic,’” the Court’s order held. “Nor does a complete suspension in accepting [permit] applications reasonably fit a problem of high volumes of permit applications.” “Rather,” the opinion states, “the corrective measure chosen under the facts alleged is at best a blunt, or tangentially related, measure for addressing the concerns noted. Indeed, based on the allegations in the complaint, it is plausible to infer that defendant suspended acceptance of applications due to inability to process a high volume of applicants at a time of acute public need, under the guise of generally articulated ‘public health concerns.’” 

“We are pleased with the Court’s appropriate decision to allow this important Second Amendment case to continue and FPC looks forward to holding Sheriff Baker accountable for the constitutional violations he caused last year,” said Adam Kraut, FPC’s Director of Legal Strategy. “As the Supreme Court has recently recognized, even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. We look forward to vindicating the rights of our plaintiffs and members of the public.” 

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Firearms Policy Coalition and its FPC Law team are the nation’s next-generation advocates leading the Second Amendment litigation and research space, having recently filed two United States Supreme Court petitions for certiorari (review) (Folajtar v. Attorney General and Holloway v. Attorney General) and several major federal Second Amendment lawsuits, including challenges to the State of Maryland’s ban on “assault weapons” (Bianchi v. Frosh), Philadelphia’s Gun Permit Unit policies and practices (Fetsurka v. Outlaw), Pennsylvania’s ban on carry by adults under 21 years of age (Lara v. Evanchick), California’s Handgun Ban and “Roster” laws (Renna v. Becerra), Maryland’s carry ban (Call v. Jones), New Jersey’s carry ban (Bennett v. Davis), New York City’s carry ban (Greco v. New York City), the federal ban on the sale of handguns and handgun ammunition by federal firearm licensees (FFLs) to adults under 21 years of age (Reese v. BATFE), and others, with many more cases being prepared today. To follow these and other legal cases FPC is actively working on, visit the Legal Action section of FPC’s website or follow FPC on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.

Firearms Policy Coalition (firearmspolicy.org) is a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization. FPC’s mission is to protect and defend constitutional rights—especially the right to keep and bear arms—advance individual liberty, and restore freedom through litigation and legal action, legislative and regulatory action, education, outreach, grassroots activism, other programs. FPC Law is the nation’s largest public interest legal team focused on Second Amendment and adjacent fundamental rights including freedom of speech and due process, conducting litigation, research, scholarly publications, and amicus briefing, among other efforts.

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