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26 February 2017

Here is media coverage of our successful Second Amendment challenge to Taser/stun gun bans in Maryland.  From the Baltimore Sun:  

Baltimore, Howard County act on electronic weapons ban in face of lawsuit.

Chief Judge Catherine C. Blake of the U.S. District Court in Maryland signed an order temporarily halting part of a federal lawsuit that challenges bans on the electronic weapons in Baltimore City and Baltimore and Howard counties, pending action by the city.

Six local residents — including Leah Elizabeth Baran of Howard County and Douglas W. Hansen of Baltimore — sued local officials in late January over their right to own and carry the weapons.

Mayor Catherine Pugh said the city and plaintiffs "have agreed to wait up to 90 days to allow for potential legislative action by the City which would remove the need to move forward with the lawsuit."

Howard County lawmakers lifted a similar ban Tuesday in response to the lawsuit. Both jurisdictions, along with Baltimore County, have had longstanding restrictions on the use the stun guns, which the plaintiffs argued are necessary for self-defense as an alternative to lethal force.

Their argument is bolstered by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in March 2016 that questioned the constitutionality of stun gun bans and suggested that Second Amendment protections applied to electronic weapons. The decision did not declare stun gun bans wholly unconstitutional; instead, the court rejected the arguments of a Massachusetts court for upholding the ban.

Anne Arundel County — the first county to ban stun guns in the state — lifted its restriction in 2013.

Some warn that the stun guns can be deadly if used by untrained people. The devices use compressed nitrogen to fire two small probes attached to conducting wires. Once in contact with a person's body, the device transfers enough voltage stop the target's motor functions and inhibit muscle control without causing injury.

The effects become more pronounced the longer the device is used: A half-second jolt is startling, while a second or two can leave a person dazed. Longer than that leads to loss of balance and muscle control.

Baran and the other plaintiffs argued that unlike weapons such as batons or knives, Tasers allow individuals to apprehend an attacker at proximity.

Baran wants to be able to use a stun gun because a former boyfriend who was sentenced to prison for 30 years for sexual assault in 2014 threatened to harm her after he was released.

"When he says he's going to do something, he's going to do it," Baran said. "Going to jail won't change that."

Baran is trained to use firearms and has a handgun qualification license from the Maryland State Police, but she argues a stun gun is a less lethal defense option.

The company she tried to buy a stun gun from, Taser International, won't ship one to her house because she lives in Howard County, according to the lawsuit.

Hansen, who lives in Baltimore's Remington neighborhood, also has been trained in firearms, according to the lawsuit. He is "ready, willing and able to use deadly force to defend himself and his home" but worries about the consequences, including psychological ramification and the potential to be taken into police custody and prosecuted.

George L. Lyon Jr., a lead attorney on the lawsuit, said the case aims to restore local residents' right to "an effective self-defense tool." His firm, Arsenal Attorneys, represents gun owners and the firearms industry and challenged the stun gun ban in Washington, which officials there moved to repeal last fall.

Lyon called Howard's action "long overdue" and said he hopes Baltimore officials will "take the next step and outright repeal the ban that's been in place."

"There are circumstances when deadly force might not be appropriate," Lyon said. The plaintiffs "see this as giving them another potential tool to use."

A motion was filed to dismiss the case against Howard County, following repeal there. The litigation involving Baltimore County is ongoing, Lyon said.

The laws in Baltimore and Howard County were misdemeanors that carried fines of $500 and $1,000, respectively

 

23 February 2017

taser 2Arsenal Attorneys and the City of Baltimore Maryland have negotiated an end to the City’s ban on Tasers and stun guns.

In January Arsenal Attorneys sued Baltimore City and two Maryland counties over their bans on owning and using Tasers and stun guns for self-defense.

Lead plaintiff in the case is Leah Elizabeth Baran, a domestic abuse survivor who lives in Howard County, Maryland. Five other Maryland residents joined in the suit to overturn the electronic weapons bans.

Earlier this week the Howard County Council in response to Ms. Baran’s lawsuit, voted to repeal its ban on electronic weapons.

The agreement with the City of Baltimore, filed in federal court on February 23, 2017, provides that the City will not enforce its Taser/stun gun ban against the lawsuit plaintiffs. It further provides that the City will not enforce its ban against other law abiding citizens. Persons with serious mental illnesses with a history of involuntary commitment to mental institutions or with a history of violence will continue to be prohibited from possessing electronic weapons. The stipulated agreement also provides that electronic weapons will be prohibited in schools and government building.

As part of the agreed stipulation, Baltimore City also agreed to pay Arsenal’s costs and attorneys’ fees in bringing the suit against the City.

“This is a great victory for both the Second Amendment and the right of Baltimore residents to protect themselves, “ said Arsenal Attorneys’ George Lyon, who served as lead counsel in the case.

Last Summer Arsenal Attorneys sued the District of Columbia over its electronic weapons ban. In December, the District’s City Council voted to repeal its Taser/stun gun ban. That repeal provision awaits a mandatory Congressional review period and is expected to become effective by early May.

Arsenal Attorneys serve gun owners, firearms and ammunition manufacturers, retailers, and instructors in over 40 states. From its main office in Arlington, Virginia, Arsenal Attorneys is a full service law firm for clients in the metropolitan Washington, DC area, Northern Virginia, and Maryland. The firm’s practice areas include: Firearms law, business law, estate planning, LLCs, criminal defense, civil litigation, personal injury, landlord-tenant disputes, and more.

06 February 2017

Arsenal Attorneys on behalf of six Maryland citizens is suing Howard County, Baltimore County and Baltimore City in federal district court over their bans on Tasers and stun guns. The three Maryland localities prohibit their residents and visitors from possessing and using non-lethal electrical conductive weapons such as Tasers or stun guns even in the home.  The Washington Post reported on the case on February 4, 2017.

Leah Elizabeth Baran, a domestic violence survivor, is the lead plaintiff in the case. Ms. Baran barely survived an abduction, rape and vicious beating at the hands of a former boyfriend. “His last words to me were if I go to jail, as soon as I get out, I’m coming for you and I am going to kill you,” Baran told The Washington Post. “And I believe every word of it.” believe every word of it.” He is now indeed serving time in prison for his attack on her. She believes that when he is released from prison he will indeed try to kill her.

Each plaintiff in the case is trained in firearms, owns guns, and are willing to use them in appropriate circumstances. However, each plaintiff stated a desire to have available a non-lethal weapon to avoid using deadly force against an attack, if possible. Ms. Baran has applied for a Maryland Wear and Carry Permit, which is currently pending before the Maryland State Police.

Last August Arsenal Attorneys’ George Lyon successfully sued the District of Columbia over its ban on electronic weapons as an unconstituional infringement of the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms. In response, the District agreed in September to allow Arsenal’s clients to possess Tasers or stun guns, and agreed to pay Arsenal’s attorneys’ fees in bringing the suit. Since that time, the DC City Council has passed emergency temporary legislation repealing the electronic weapons ban. A permanent repeal is pending the DC mayor’s signature and Congressional review.

25 January 2017

taxation without justificationThe most common question we receive lately concerns the Hearing Protection Act ('HPA').  In the House of Representatives it is H.R. 367. The Senate version is S. 59.  This legislation was recently re-introduced in Congress following President Trump's election and the Republican takeover of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  The HPA would de-regulate silencers by removing them from the National Firearms Act (NFA).  If enacted, suppressors could be purchased without NFA taxes or registration.  Here are the possible outcomes for this legislation.

1.  Success:  The House and Senate pass the HPA in the current session, and the President signs it into law.

2.  Compromise:  Any kind of compromise version could be possible.  An alternative solution could be a streamlined process allowing you to register a suppressor and pay the tax at the point of sale in a gun shop.  Thus you could take home your can immediately, but transfers, possession and inheritance would still be regulated generally the same as before.  Of course, the refund could be omitted.

3.  Failure: The HPA could die a quiet death in committee (no pun intended) or fail in a vote on the House floor, or in the more daunting Senate.  The Senate's 'cloture rule' requires 60 votes to end debate, then a simple majority would be needed for final passage.  There are currently 52 Republican Senators, and not all of them could be assumed to be reliable votes for the HPA. 

What's our prediction?  We just don't know, but here are some thoughts. At last count, the HPA had at least 74 co-sponsors in the House, but Congressional GOP leaders like Paul Ryan have been silent on the issue (again, no pun intended).  Of course Republican control of the House, Senate, and Presidency give the HPA improved chances; however, HPA will only pass if these politicians are prepared to expend political capital because a price would need to be paid for its passage.

 

"The HPA would be an astonishing victory"

 

After fighting over Obamacare, immigration, the border wall, a Supreme Court appointment, ISIS, NATO, trade deals, tax cuts, national concealed carry reciprocity, abortion, etc., will Congress and the President have enough motivation to fight for HPA?  Perhaps the greatest challenge to the HPA is the fact it is a dream come true for gun control advocates who will use demagoguery to demonize the HPA's supporters.  On the other hand, the NRA and the American Suppressor Association have advocated for silencer reform more aggressively than ever--with Arsenal Attorneys' support--and both of them accumulated much political capital of their own during the presidential campaign.  The NRA reportedly spent $36 million to support various candidates in the 2016 election cycle.

Currently H.R. 367 has been assigned to both the Ways and Means and the Judiciary Committees. The website www.govtrack.us gives the HPA a 5% chance for enactment, but without much explanation.

Enactment of the HPA would be an astonishing victory considering it would be the first success in rolling back the National Firearms Act since its adoption in 1934.  Throughout its history, the NFA has seen little change.  For example, the $200 tax on silencer transfers has remained the same since 1934. 

 

". . . deregulation would improve hearing safety, reduce noise pollution, and stimulate interest in the shooting sports--without any factual basis to expect a negative impact, such as increased poaching or gun violence."

 

What should you do?  First, contact your Member of Congress and Senator to express your opinion on HPA.  Explain how deregulation would improve hearing safety, reduce noise pollution, and stimulate interest in the shooting sports--without any factual basis to expect a negative impact, such as increased poaching or gun violence.  Second, determine the priority of your next suppressor purchase versus your expectation for HPA's passage.  The HPA could languish for the next two years during the current session of Congress. If it fails to pass in this session, the HPA's prospect for success could be greatly diminished, unless the 2018 elections give the GOP a super majority in the Senate. If you don't like waiting, you should consider obtaining a silencer now regardless of HPA.  We say this because you might be rewarded with a faster tax stamp and a bargain. This could be possible because of three reasons. First, ATF will soon finish the backlog of NFA applications submitted in the first half of last year. Second, suppressor sales have declined as people wait and see if HPA passes, thus ATF is receiving fewer NFA applications. Third, ATF announced last fall it will elevate the NFA Branch to a full-fledged Department with greater resources and staff to complete its work. Therefore we could soon see the fastest NFA approvals by ATF and discounts by the firearms industry to spark demand.

 

"Consider obtaining a silencer now

regardless of HPA"

 

One thing is clear, for the foreseeable future, a trust remains the recommended solution for registering NFA firearms to facilitate possession and inheritance by others.  We can revise virtually any trust to use our new Arsenal Gun Trust design, which minimizes the effects of Obama era executive action.  Contact us to discuss how a 'restatement' of your trust can help you and your loved ones.

30 November 2016

huffpo-logoOn November 30, 2016, Arsenal Attorneys' George Lyon was featured in the Huffington Post in an article on the use of body cameras for law enforcement and, just as importantly, for criminal defense.  Here is an excerpt from that article: 

Although body cameras are regularly touted as a way to keep tabs on police brutality and use of lethal force, they’re also essential in much more routine law enforcement activity.

A client of Washington, D.C., defense attorney George Lyon was arrested earlier this year for allegedly having an open container of alcohol in public. She maintained her innocence and said she was arrested because she had an attitude with an officer. Lyon began to prepare a defense because the city was intent on proceeding with the case. When he requested body camera footage from the arresting officer’s camera, he found that it showed the bottles in question were nowhere near his client. The prosecution eventually dropped all charges.

Lyon said he’d be highly skeptical if he were defending a case in which an officer couldn’t provide a good explanation for a deactivated body camera.

body camera 2“If the police officer doesn’t turn on the camera or somehow the video is erased, I would argue that the jury should infer that the evidence that has been spoiled would have been favorable to a client,” he said.

Arsenal Attorneys is a full service law firm based in the metropolitan Washington, DC area.  The firm provides criminal defense in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.  Our team of lawyers include a former prosecutor and a former law enforcement officer with extensive experience in detecting the weaknesses and flaws of criminal prosecutions.

Arsenal Attorneys also provide services in business law, estate planning, family law, immigration, bankruptcy, personal injury, and civil litigation.  Contact us to discuss your legal issue today.

22 November 2016

BIG CHECKThe District of Columbia on November 17, 2016, presented Arsenal Attorneys with a check in the amount of $94,121.79, representing payment of attorneys’ fees and costs for the firm's successful challenge to DC’s ban on Tasers and stun guns.

Arsenal Attorneys, on behalf of three District of Columbia residents, last August sued the District of Columbia over its electronic weapons ban.  The Complaint in Wright v. District of Columbia can be found here.  Arsenal then filed a motion for a preliminary injunction seeking an order from the court to lift the ban while the case progressed.  The memorandum of law in support of that motion, minus the voluminous exhibits, can be found here.  

In September, the District entered into a stipulation agreeing to allow our clients to possess electronic weapons in their homes.  In return we agreed to stay the case for 90 days to allow DC time to repeal the ban on electronic weapons.  The court in turn issued an order adopting that stipulation.  The stipulation provided for the District to pay our attorneys’ fees.

Currently, pending before the DC City Council is a bill that would repeal the electronic weapons ban.  We have been informed by knowledgeable Council insiders that the bill is likely to be passed with few, if any restrictions beyond a prohibition on carry of electronic weapons into schools and a prohibition on possession by persons under 18.  It is likely that the repeal of the ban will be accomplished before the end of the year, subject of course to Congress’s review.

"We were prepared to litigate this case pro bono in fulfillment of our ethical duty as lawyers to improve the law," said Managing Attorney Matthew Bergstrom, "However," he continued, "the court's order for the payment of our fees could teach jurisdictions like the District of Columbia of their own duty to uphold and defend the Constitution in its entirety."  

"Already our efforts have borne fruit beyond DC," said George L. Lyon, Arsenal Attorneys' lead counsel in Wright v. District of Columbia.  "After our DC lawsuit was filed, residents of New Jersey sued the state to overturn its ban on electronic weapons."  Their complaint substantially mirrors the complaint Arsenal Attorneys filed in the Wright case.  The odds are overwhelming that they will prevail in overturning New Jersey’s ban on Tasers and stun guns.  Just last week, in a different New Jersey case, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office admitted that New Jersey’s electronic weapons ban is unconstitutional."

Stun gun bans remain in effect in New York, Rhode Island and Hawaii, as well as in several jurisdictions in Maryland, and a few other municipalities around the country.  Arsenal Attorneys are seeking plaintiffs to challenge electronic weapons bans in Annapolis, Baltimore City and County and Howard County.  If you live in those areas and are interested in serving as a plaintiff to challenge the ban, contact Arsenal Attorneys at 703-291-3312.  

Arsenal Attorneys' practice firearms law in over 40 states.  Our firm represents individual gun owners, gun dealeres, and firearms and ammunition manufacturers.  Our team of attorneys have experience as prosecutors, law enforcement officers, firearms instructors, and litigants in landmark Second Amendment cases.  We are particularly renowned for our Arsenal Gun Trust solution as an estate plan for firearms and a safer and easier solution for handling and inheriting firearms regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA).  Our lawyers have delivered legal training to the legal profession on behalf of the American Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association.  Our work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, and numerous other print, TV and radio media.  While we concentrate on firearms related issues, Arsenal Attorneys offer many of the same services of a general practice law firm, including criminal defense, estate planning, business law, civil litigation, and more.  

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