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Federal judge upholds ban on firearms without serial numbers

A gavel rests on a judge bench. (The Columbus Dispatch/TNS)
May 16, 2023

A federal judge has upheld a ban on firearms lacking serial numbers in a ruling that many Second Amendment advocates argue is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Senior Judge William J. Martínez ruled on May 8 that the Supreme Court has interpreted the Second Amendment does not rule out the requirement for requiring serial numbers on firearms.

“Reason and the experience of law enforcement counsel is that obliterating a firearm’s serial number serves another purpose: making the identity of a person who possesses a particular firearm more difficult to determine,” Martínez wrote. “This feature makes firearms with obliterated serial numbers useful for criminal activity.”

In the case, Jonathan Avila moved for dismissal of the charge of possessing a firearm with a removed serial number, arguing that the law opposed his constitutional rights. The judge pushed back on the effort in the criminal case.

The decision Martínez referred to was the 2022 Supreme Court decision in New York Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen. The ruling voided a New York licensing law but upheld a legal framework for gun regulations.

READ MORE: New York cops ‘overwhelmed’ by orders to confiscate guns

Gun control supporters also argue that the requirement for serial numbers on firearms is a safety precaution that will reduce crime and shootings across the nation. Second Amendment advocates question the legality of the law, noting that a legal gun owner should be able to remove a serial number if he or she desires.

Bearing Arms writer Tom Knighton also noted that the issue of stolen guns reaches back to before the Second Amendment. Despite not existing at the level of today’s firearm sales, the concern of tracking stolen weapons was known to the writers of the Constitution and was not included as a limitation or stipulation for those seeking to exercise the right to bear arms.

In a related case in October, U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin ruled that no historical standard exists to demonstrate that a firearm without a serial number is more dangerous than other guns, claiming the law is unconstitutional.

“I am convinced that the Supreme Court left generally undisturbed the regulatory framework that keeps firearms out of the hands of dangerous felons,” Goodwin concluded. “In keeping with Justice Thomas’ insistence that ‘law-abiding’ citizens are protected by the Second Amendment, Section 922(g)(1)—which aims to ensure that those bearing arms are law-abiding, responsible citizens—accords with the Second Amendment.”