Nevada Court Finds Ghost Gun Law Unconstitutionally Vague

Nevada Court Finds Ghost Gun Law Unconstitutionally Vague

U.S.A.-( The Nevada legislature passed and Governor Sisolak signed into law AB 286 on June 7, 2021.  On June 22, Polymer80 filed a lawsuit challenging AB 286 as unconstitutionally vague, under the due process clause of the Nevada Constitution.

Both Polymer80 and the State of Nevada filed Motions for Summary Judgement, and opposition to the opponent’s Motion for Summary Judgement, in a timely manner.

Summary judgment is granted when the law and the facts of the case are so clear cut no trial is needed for a court to rule on the matter.

AB 286 attempted to ban the possession, sale, or transport of an “unfinished frame or receiver” as defined in the bill. As anyone with ordinary intelligence can determine, the definition of something which is unfinished is problematic. When does a process start? At what point does it become “unfinished”?  Does it start with molten metal, the combination of chemicals in a mold, or the first cut of a saw or turn of a drill?

Here is the definition of “Unfinished frame or receiver” as stated in AB 286:  

9.“Unfinished frame or receiver” means a blank, a casting or a machined body that is intended to be turned into the frame or lower receiver of a firearm with additional machining and which has been formed or machined to the point at which most of the major machining operations have been completed to turn the blank, casting or machined body into a frame or lower receiver of a firearm even if the fire-control cavity area of the blank, casting or machined body is still completely solid and unmachined.

Both parties agreed to the basic facts in the case.

On December 10, 2021, the Third Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada, issued Summary Judgement in favor of Polymer80, striking down the law as unconstitutionally vague. From the opinion:

The definition does not tell anyone when during the manufacturing process a blank, casting, or machined body (whatever those terms mean) has gone through the “major machining operations” (whatever those are) to turn that  blank, casting or machined body into a frame or lower receiver of a firearm (whatever that may be), a person of ordinary intelligence could not proscribe their conduct to comply with the law. As a result, this Court finds that the text of AB 286 does not provide fair notice of whatever it criminalizes. To this end, this Court asked on multiple occasions during oral argument on the Motion for Summary Judgement, what those terms as used in AB 286 mean. Tellingly, the Defendants could not in any manner explain their meaning(s).

This has always been the difficulty with regulating partially made items. Where do you start, and where do you stop? In countries without any Second Amendment protections, they simply forbid you from having *any* firearm part unless you have a firearms license. Even that is problematic. When I was in Queensland, Australia, State authorities had ruled a rifled barrel that did not have a chamber, was not a finished firearm part and could be sold and purchased without a firearms license.

Making firearms for individual use has always been legal in the United States. It is reasonably common, and has many legal purposes. It is difficult to see how banning the private making of firearms could be Constitutional under the Second Amendment.

At the time of writing, it was not known if the State of Nevada will appeal the decision.

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean Weingarten

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