May 13, 2021
As groups fighting to save our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms go, the Firearms Policy Coalition might not be the first to come to the mind of most American gun owners. However, that organization is doing an exemplary job of fighting for our rights in one of the toughest venues around—the court system.
“FPC is a coalition of hundreds of thousands of patriots organizing to take back our Constitution and defend the inalienable, fundamental and individual right to keep and bear arms,” is how the nonprofit group describes itself. In addition, 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.
Through efforts on literally dozens of court cases involving freedom, FPC fights various bans, limitations and restrictions that keep lawful Americans from enjoying their Second Amendment rights to their fullest.
I recently had a chance to pose some questions to Taylor Svehlak, the organization’s director of public affairs. Some of his answers were very enlightening and highlighted the interesting work the organization does.
Firearms News: What are your thoughts on the current gun control climate in the country?
Taylor Svehlak: It’s an interesting situation, really. On the one hand, anti-gun politicians and interest groups are pushing harder than they ever have, and with more radical policies than they’ve considered in the past. Simultaneously, public support for gun control is polling at historical lows, and gun ownership has skyrocketed, especially among groups that have historically been either less-willing, or even unjustly prevented from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.
FN: Thoughts on the Biden administration and gun control?
TS: The Biden administration has taken a particularly tyrannical and deceptive approach to gun control, both in terms of tactics and messaging. On the messaging side, the Biden admin is following the same model that most anti-rights advocacy groups tend to follow. They understand that flat-out ignoring part of the Constitution either isn’t politically tenable, or is constitutionally impossible. So instead, they use intellectually dishonest and politically ambiguous terms like “common sense,” “gun violence,” “compromise” and “responsible gun owner” to subtly shift the debate in their favor. Meanwhile, they define these terms in a way that makes them politically meaningless.
On the tactical side, the Biden admin realizes that popular support for gun control is at near-record lows, while firearm ownership continues to skyrocket—especially among demographics that have traditionally been oppressed by the very gun control that the Biden administration proposes. This has led the Biden administration to use the BATFE as a proxy to enact “regulation via redefinition.” For example, last week there was a leaked ATF “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” that was largely dedicated to redefining the term “frame or receiver.” While this may sound benign without context, it would essentially create a scenario where the ATF has the power to redefine most gun parts as “firearms” themselves, making the home-building of firearms into a legal minefield. We condemn in the strongest terms this kind of bureaucracy-driven effort to circumvent Congress and, more importantly, the natural rights of the People.
FN: What is your mission at FPC, and how do you go about working towards it?
TS: FPC’s mission is to protect and defend constitutional rights—especially the right to keep and bear arms—advance individual liberty and restore freedom. In terms of how we go about working toward that goal, the “restore” part is vital. For far too long, previous generations were willing to capitulate in the fight over gun rights. If gun owners want to truly protect the right to keep and bear arms, we absolutely have to break that trend, and start restoring our rights to what they once were, as well as fighting forward to ensure that those rights are as expansive as possible. Our goal is to create a world in which the People enjoy maximal individual liberty.
FN: What are some of the current cases you are involved in, and what is at stake?
TS: There are a ton, so you’ll have to bear with me. We’re currently involved in over 80 cases across all levels of the court system. These cases run the gamut, covering challenges to restore the right to carry arms in public, so-called “assault weapon” bans, magazine capacity bans, age-based bans, bans on home building and 3D printing firearms, red-flag laws, COVID-backed gun store closures and more.
In terms of specific cases, just yesterday we announced some positive traction in Renna v. Bonta, which is a lawsuit that challenges California’s ridiculous handgun roster. Thankfully, the Judge dismissed the defense’s motion to dismiss the case outright, which is good for those of us that are pro-gun. Another big case, this one out of Maryland, is Bianchi v. Frosh—a simple but crucial challenge to Maryland’s ban on modern sporting rifles or, as they like to call them, “assault weapons.”
There are a ton of others from across the country, but probably the biggest case right now is NYSRPA v. Bruen, a case that we filed an amicus brief in, which is concerned with a state’s ability to deny ordinary, law-abiding individuals the right to carry a firearm for defense outside the home. The reason this case in particular has really made headlines is that earlier this week the Supreme Court granted cert, meaning that they’ve agreed to actually hear the case. This is a big deal, given the Court’s general reluctance to touch Second Amendment cases, and will be the first-ever Supreme Court case regarding carry rights.
FN: How do people bring cases to your attention that might warrant involvement?
TS: That’s a great question, and gives me the perfect opportunity to plug both our plaintiff search platform as well as our legal action hotline. While we make a concerted attempt to support relevant cases from across the country, the best way people can actually bring cases to our attention is by visiting our site and submitting an actual report.
FN: Any thoughts on efforts to “pack” the Supreme Court?
TS: This actually ties in really well with the anti-gunner's willingness, and need, to essentially cheat the system. As we all know, the Supreme Court has spent years punting gun rights cases. That said, recent additions to the court’s composition (especially Gorsuch and Coney Barrett) have, in the past, suggested that it’s time for the court to finally address what Justice Thomas famously referred to as the court’s “disfavored right.” In this respect, packing the court wouldn’t just be a radical departure from democratic norms, it would be a direct assault on our rights—and especially on our right to keep and bear arms.
FN: What are your overall thoughts on where we’re going as a nation, re: freedom?
TS: We’ve all heard the saying, “The Second Amendment protects the First.” Well, it also protects the rest of the Bill of Rights. Historically speaking, “leaders” (and I use that term very loosely) that try to disarm the People do so for one reason: control. Authoritarians often attempt to disguise that thirst for control by saying it’s for “public safety”—as the Biden administration is attempting to do with their bizarre and ineffective attempts to regulate non-firearm objects as firearms. But history also teaches us that ultimately, these initiatives are doomed to fail, so long as the People are willing to fight against them.
We are currently facing countless attacks on our right to keep and bear arms. But we’re optimistic. We’ve seen what the People are capable of, and we know that ultimately, tyranny doesn’t win. It’s going to be a long road, but we’re going to not only protect gun rights, we’re going to fight forward, making up ground lost by the generations before us, and leaving this nation a freer place for our children.
FN: What should the average gun owner do to help ensure the Second Amendment remains relevant?
TS: There are so many ways to ensure the right to keep and bear arms stays relevant. I like to think about gun rights advocacy as a two-step process. The very first thing we can do is to actually exercise said right. It sounds obvious, but a lot of people don’t realize that simply going shooting is one of the best ways to keep gun rights alive.
Step two demands an actual commitment of either time or money. Vote for politicians that will substantively support gun rights, even when it’s unpopular within their own party. Sign petitions and send letters to your representatives demanding they oppose unconstitutional attempts at further strangling your rights. Donate to organizations that are fighting in the trenches to rip up current and prevent future infringements. Attend grassroots events in support of gun rights. Take other people shooting, and work to convince them to exercise their own rights.
There’s something for everyone to do. You just need to actually do it.