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Mitchell v. Atkins: Defending Washington’s Assault Rifle Regulations

Case Information: Mitchell v. Atkins, No. 20-35827 (9th Cir. Brief filed March 5, 2021)

At Issue: In 2018, the people of Washington voted to reduce gun violence in their communities, and among young people in particular. They did so by passing a ballot measure—Initiative 1639 —to prohibit 18-to-20-year-olds from purchasing semiautomatic assault rifles. The Initiative passed by a strong majority, garnering more than 60% of the vote. Seeking to reverse the voters’ will and well-established Second Amendment law, Appellants filed suit alleging that the Initiative prevents them from exercising rights conferred by the Second Amendment. The federal district court dismissed the case, finding that the claim failed at both steps of the two-part test for Second Amendment claims used by most federal courts. The case is now on appeal before the 9th Circuit.

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: We joined Brady in a brief which argues that the district court’s decision was correct and should be affirmed. We also provide additional social science research which confirms the district court’s reasoning. In particular, this evidence demonstrates that: (i) 18-to-20-year-olds are at higher risk of using long guns to attempt suicide, (ii) this age group is disproportionately likely to carry out mass shootings at schools using semiautomatic assault rifles, and (iii) the Initiative’s definition of semiautomatic assault rifles is carefully tailored to restrict the purchase of exceptionally lethal weapons. We argue that for these reasons and those advanced by the Appellees, the Initiative easily passes constitutional muster and that the district court’s decision should be affirmed.

 Read the full text of our amicus brief here.