• June 17, 2024

Federal Court Strikes Down Ban On Firearms On Army Corps of Engineers Property

Plaintiffs challenge regulations promulgated by the Army Corp of Engineers that govern the possession of firearms on property administered by the Corps. Plaintiffs argue that the regulations violate their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

The regulations govern over 700 dams — holding back more than 100 trillion gallons of water — built by the Corps, and the surrounding recreation areas that serve over 300 million visitors annually. Adopted in 1973, the regulations were intended to provide for more effective management of the lake and reservoir projects. The regulation at issue here reads as follows:

(a) The possession of loaded firearms, ammunition, loaded projectile firing devices, bows and arrows, crossbows, or other weapons is prohibited unless:

(1) In the possession of a Federal, state or local law enforcement officer;

(2) Being used for hunting or fishing as permitted under § 327.8, with devices being unloaded when transported to, from or between hunting and fishing sites;

(3) Being used at authorized shooting ranges; or

(4) Written permission has been received from the District Commander….

Army-Corps-of-Engineers-Gun-Free-Zones36 C.F.R. § 327.13. The plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that this regulation violates the Second Amendment by (1) banning the possession of firearms in a tent, and (2) banning the carrying of firearms on Corps’ recreation sites. The plaintiffs live in western Idaho, recreate on Corps-administered public lands where this regulation applies, and would possess a functional firearm at those recreation sites but for the Corps’ active enforcement of this regulation….

The Second Amendment protects the right to carry a firearm for self-defense purposes. That right extends outside the home. Peruta, 742 F.3d at 1166 (holding that “the right to bear arms includes the right to carry an operable firearm outside the home for the lawful purpose of self-defense”).

The Corps’ regulation bans carrying a loaded firearm for the purpose of selfdefense. It also bans carrying an unloaded firearm along with its ammunition. At most, it would allow a person to carry an unloaded firearm so long as he was not also carrying its ammunition. An unloaded firearm is useless for self-defense purposes without its ammunition. While those who use firearms for hunting are allowed greater latitude, the regulation grants no such exemption to those carrying firearms solely for purposes of self-defense. Consequently, the regulation does impose a burden on plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights.

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