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GeorgiaCarry.Org, Inc. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Rome Division

August 18, 2014

GEORGIACARRY.ORG, INC., and DAVID JAMES, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, and JOHN J. CHYTKA, in his official capacity as Commander, Mobile District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Defendant

Page 1366

For GeorgiaCarry.Org, Inc., David James, Plaintiffs: John R. Monroe, LEAD ATTORNEY, Roswell, GA.

For The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Defendant: Daniel M. Riess, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Washington, DC; Lori M. Beranek, Office of United States Attorney, Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta, GA.

For Jon J. Chytka, in his official Capacity as Commander, Mobile District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Defendant: Daniel M. Riess, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Washington, DC.

Page 1367

ORDER

HAROLD MURPHY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This case is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [5].

I. Background

A. Procedural Background

On June 12, 2014, Plaintiffs filed the instant Complaint seeking the Court's declaration that 36 C.F.R. § 327.13 (the " Firearms Regulation" ), a regulation restricting gun use on Defendant Army Corps of Engineers' (" Defendant Army Corps" ) property, violates the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. (Docket Entry No. 1.) In the Complaint, Plaintiffs requested a preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the Firearms Regulation. (Compl. (Docket Entry No. 1) ¶ 37.) The Court instructed Plaintiffs to file a separate brief requesting injunctive relief (Docket Entry No. 4), and Plaintiffs filed such a brief on June 13, 2014 (Docket Entry No. 5). After receiving an extension (Docket Entry No. 9), Defendants filed their response on July 14, 2014 (Docket Entry No. 11). Plaintiffs have now replied (Docket Entry No. 15), and the Court consequently finds the instant Motion ripe for resolution.

Page 1368

B. Plaintiffs' Allegations

Plaintiff GeorgiaCarry.Org (" Plaintiff GCO" ) is a non-profit corporation organized under Georgia law. (Compl. ¶ 4.) Its mission is to support its member's rights to keep and bear arms. (Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff David James (" Plaintiff James" ) is a resident of Paulding County, Georgia, and a member of Plaintiff GCO. (Id. ¶ ¶ 6-7.) Defendant Army Corps is a subset of the United States Army. (Id. ¶ 8.) Defendant Army Corps operates public parks and recreational facilities at water resource development projects under control of the Department of the Army. (Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Army Corps " is the largest provider of water-based outdoor recreation in the United States." (Id. ¶ 10.) Defendant Chytka is the Commander of the Mobile District of Defendant Army Corps, and is sued in his official capacity only. (Id. ¶ ¶ 11-12.) The Mobile District of Defendant Army Corps operates projects and facilities on the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee, and Flint rivers. (Id. ¶ 13.)

Plaintiff James possesses a Georgia weapons carry license issued pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 16-11-129. (Compl. ¶ 14.) In Georiga, such licenses are generally required to carry a gun outside of one's home, automobile or place of business. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff James regularly carries a handgun in case of confrontation, except in locations where doing so is prohibited by law. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff James, along with other members of Plaintiff GCO, regularly camps and recreates on property owned by Defendant Army Corps at Lake Allatoona (the " Allatoona Property" ), a Defendant Army Corps water facility located in northwest Georgia. (Id. ¶ ¶ 17-18, 33.) The Allatoona Property lies in Defendant Army Corps' Mobile District, and is therefore subject to Defendant Chytka's command. (Id. ¶ 19.) The Allatoona Property is one of Defendant Army Corps' most visited properties, receiving over six million visitors per year. (Id. ¶ ¶ 20-21.) There are nearly six hundred campsites and two hundred picnic sites on the Allatoona Property, and Plaintiff James camps in a tent on one of those sites several weeks per year. (Id. ¶ 22.)

Defendant Army Corps' Firearms Regulation prohibits the possession of firearms on Corps property, absent certain exceptions. (Compl. ¶ 23.) It states, in full:

(a) The possession of loaded firearms, ammunition, loaded projectile firing devices, bows and arrows, crossbows, or other weapons is prohibited unless:
(1) In the possession of a Federal, state or local law enforcement officer;
(2) Being used for hunting or fishing as permitted under § 327.8, with devices being unloaded when transported to, from or between hunting and fishing sites;
(3) Being used at authorized shooting ranges;
or
(4) Written permission has been received from the District Commander.
(b) Possession of explosives or explosive devices of any kind, including fireworks or other pyrotechnics, is prohibited unless written permission has been received from the District Commander.

36 C.F.R. § 327.13. Violation of the Firearms Regulation is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000.00, six months imprisonment, or both. (Compl. ¶ 27; 36 C.F.R. § 327.25.)

Plaintiffs state that " [b]ut for the application and enforcement of [the Firearms Regulation], [Plaintiff] James would keep and carry a handgun in case of confrontation when he recreates and camps at Allatoona." (Compl. ¶ 26.) Further, Plaintiff James " is in fear of arrest, prosectuion and punishment for violating [the Firearms

Page 1369

Regulation] and therefore refrains from keeping and carrying a handgun when he recreates and camps at Allatoona." (Id. ¶ 29.) Plaintiff James requested that he be granted written permission to carry a handgun pursuant to section (a)(4) of the firearms regulation. (Id. ¶ ¶ 30-31.) However, on June 9, 2014, Defendant Chytka informed Plaintiff James that he had " discerned not to exercise [his] discretion under [the Firearms Regulation] to grant [Plaintiff James] permission to possess a loaded firearm while visiting Lake Allatoona." (Id. ¶ 32.) Based on this denial, Plaintiffs assert that Defendants are violating the Second Amendment rights of Plaintiff James. (Id. ¶ ¶ 34-35.) Plaintiffs request a declaration that the Firearms Regulation is unconstitutional on its face and as applied (id. ¶ 36), a preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting enforcement of the Firearms Regulation (id. ¶ 37), costs for bringing and maintaining this case (id. ¶ 38), and any other relief the Court deems proper (id. ¶ 39).

II. Preliminary Injunction Standard

To obtain a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction, a movant must show: (1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2) that it will suffer irreparable injury unless the injunction is issued; (3) that the threatened injury outweighs the harm the temporary restraining order would inflict on the non-movant; and (4) that the temporary restraining order would not be adverse to the public interest. LSSI Data Corp. v. Comcast Phone, LLC,696 F.3d 1114, 1119 (11th Cir. 2012). " [A] [temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction] is an extraordinary and drastic remedy that should not be granted unless the movant clearly carries its ...


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