WILLIAMS v. SESSIONS et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE JOHN M. YOUNGE ON 11/14/23. 11/14/23 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(rf, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
EDWARD A. WILLIAMS,
MERRICK B. GARLAND, et al.,
November 14, 2023
Currently before this Court is Plaintiff Edward A. Williams’ Fourth Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 72) and Defendants’ Third Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 73).
The Court finds these motions appropriate for resolution without oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. Pr.
78; L.R. 7.1(f). For the reasons set forth in this Memorandum, Plaintiff’s Motion is Granted.
Accordingly, Defendants’ Motion is Denied.
Plaintiff Edward A. Williams was first arrested for driving under the influence
(hereinafter “DUI”) in April 2000 in State College, Pennsylvania. See Defendants’ Statement of
Undisputed Material Facts (hereinafter “SUMF”) ¶¶ 2-4, ECF No. 74; Williams v. Barr, 379 F.
Plaintiff originally brought this action on June 1, 2017, against the United States of America,
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms,
and Explosives Thomas E. Brandon, and Acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Andrew McCabe. (ECF No. 1.) Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(d), Attorney
General Merrick Garland, Director Steven Dettelbach, and Director Christopher Wray are
automatically substituted as Defendants in this action.
Supp. 3d 360, 365 (E.D. Pa. 2019), aff’d sub nom. Williams v. Att’y Gen., No. 19-2694, 2022
WL 1499279 (3d Cir. May 12, 2022), reh’g granted and opinion vacated, No. 19-2694, 2022
WL 3544391 (3d Cir. Aug. 18, 2022). Following that arrest, Plaintiff participated in
Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (hereinafter “ARD”) program. SUMF ¶
4, ECF No. 74; Williams, 379 F. Supp. 3d at 365. Although completion of an ARD program
offers a defendant the opportunity to dismiss his pending charges, it may nonetheless be
construed as a conviction for the purpose of computing a sentence for a subsequent DUI. See 75
Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 3803(a)(1), 3806(a)(1). Plaintiff was arrested a second time for DUI in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2001, but these charges were dismissed for unknown reasons. See
SUMF ¶¶ 5-8, ECF No. 74. In 2004, Plaintiff was arrested in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for
DUI for the third time. Williams, 379 F. Supp. 3d at 365.
At his third arrest, Plaintiff’s breathalyzer test revealed that his blood alcohol content was
at least 0.223, well above the legal limit of 0.08. SUMF ¶ 14, ECF No. 74; Williams, 379 F.
Supp. 3d at 365; 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3802(a). In 2005, Plaintiff was convicted of DUI at the
highest rate of intoxication, which, based on his prior offense in 2000, is a first-degree
misdemeanor punishable by up to five years in prison. See Williams, 379 F. Supp. 3d at 365; 75
Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 1104, 3802(c), 3803(b)(4), 3806(a). Plaintiff was sentenced to between ninety
days and two years in prison, but he was permitted to serve his custodial sentence under house
arrest because of a medical condition. SUMF ¶ 16, ECF No. 74; Williams, 379 F. Supp. 3d at
365. This conviction disqualified him from possessing a firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).
Plaintiff still occasionally drinks. SUMF ¶ 18, ECF No. 74.
Plaintiff filed this action on June 1, 2017, as an as-applied Second Amendment challenge
to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), which prohibits him from possessing a firearm due to his 2005 DUI
conviction. See Complaint, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff thus seeks declaratory and injunctive relief
exempting him from criminal liability for possession of a firearm under Section 922(g)(1) and its
related laws and regulations based on that conviction. See id.
On September 14, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 5.) Plaintiff
opposed and cross-moved for summary judgment. (Plaintiff’s Brief in Opposition to
Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 8; Plaintiff’s First Motion for Summary Judgment,
ECF No. 9.) Judge Robert Kelly held that Plaintiff had pleaded a prima facie as-applied Second
Amendment claim under Binderup v. Attorney General, 836 F.3d 336 (3d Cir. 2016), abrogated
by Range v. Attorney General, 69 F.4th 96 (3d Cir. 2023), and denied both Motions.2 (Order,
ECF Nos. 13 & 14.)
Following discovery, both Parties moved for summary judgment on October 26, 2018.
(ECF Nos. 29 & 30.) The Court granted Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment on April 1,
2019, and denied Plaintiff’s, finding that Section 922(g)(1) had survived intermediate scrutiny as
applied to Plaintiff at the second step of the two-step framework established in United States v.
Marzzarella, 614 F.3d 85 (3d Cir. 2010), abrogated by Range, 69 F.4th. See Williams v. Barr,
379 F. Supp. 3d 360, 364-65 (E.D. Pa. 2019). The Third Circuit affirmed the Court’s grant of
summary judgment to Defendants based on Holloway v. Attorney General, 948 F.3d 164 (3d Cir.
Judge Robert Kelly Ordered that Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment was denied as
premature and ordered additional discovery. (ECF No. 14.)
2020), abrogated by Range, 69 F.4th. This decision, issued after the Court’s decision on the
Parties’ motions for summary judgment, held that a DUI offense under the identical state
criminal provision that Plaintiff was convicted of violating excluded the challenger in that case
from Second Amendment protections. See id., 948 F.3d at 177; Williams v. Att’y Gen., No. 192694, 2022 WL 1499279, at *2 (3d Cir. May 12, 2022).
Plaintiff filed a petition for rehearing en banc following the Supreme Court’s decision in
New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, 142 S. Ct. 2111 (2022). (Petition for
Rehearing En Banc, Williams v. Att’y Gen., No. 19-2694 (3d Cir. July 18, 2022), ECF No. 60.)
Following the rehearing, the Third Circuit vacated the judgment of this Court and remanded to
the district court for reconsideration in light of Bruen. See Williams v. Att’y Gen., No. 19-2694,
2022 WL 3544391 (3d Cir. Aug. 18, 2022); Order, ECF No. 53.
While briefing was underway, subject to this Court’s briefing schedule for renewed
motions for summary judgment (Scheduling Order, ECF No. 58), the Third Circuit decided
Range v. Attorney General, 53 F.4th 262, 270 (3d Cir. 2022) and proceeded to grant rehearing en
banc and to vacate that panel opinion, 56 F.4th 992 (3d Cir. 2023). The Court granted Plaintiff’s
unopposed motion to stay proceedings pending the outcome of en banc proceedings in Range.
(Order, ECF No. 64.) On June 6, 2023, the Third Circuit issued its en banc decision in Range.
See 69 F.4th 96. The Court then amended its scheduling order for briefing on the renewed
motions for summary judgment. (Amended Scheduling Order, ECF No. 71.) Both parties filed
their respective renewed motions for summary judgment on September 21, 2023. (ECF Nos. 72
Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant shows “that there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56(a). Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sweeney, 689 F.3d 288, 292 (3d Cir. 2012). To defeat a
motion for summary judgment, there must be a factual dispute that is both material and genuine.
See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 24-49 (1986); Dee v. Borough of Dunmore,
549 F.3d 225, 229 (3d Cir. 2008). A material fact is one that “might affect the outcome of the
suit under the governing law[.]” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A dispute over a material fact is
“genuine” if, based on the evidence, “a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
The movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of
a material fact. Goldenstein v. Repossessors Inc., 815 F.3d 142, 146 (3d Cir. 2016). When the
movant is the defendant, they have the burden of demonstrating that the plaintiff “has failed to
establish one or more essential elements of her case.” Burton v. Teleflex Inc., 707 F.3d 417, 425
(3d Cir. 2013). If the movant sustains their initial burden, “the burden shifts to the nonmoving
party to go beyond the pleadings and come forward with specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Santini v. Fuentes, 795 F.3d 410, 416 (3d Cir. 2015) (internal quotation
marks omitted) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
At the summary judgment stage, the court’s role is not to weigh the evidence and
determine the truth of the matter, but rather to determine whether there is a genuine issue for
trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; Jiminez v. All Am. Rathskeller, Inc., 503 F.3d 247, 253 (3d
Cir. 2007). In doing so, the court must construe the facts and inferences in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. See Horsehead Indus., Inc. v. Paramount Commc’ns, Inc.,
258 F.3d 132, 140 (3d Cir. 2001). Nonetheless, the court must be mindful that “[t]he mere
existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff’s position will be insufficient; there
must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Anderson, 477 U.S.
Prohibiting Plaintiff’s possession of a firearm due to his DUI conviction is a violation of
his Second Amendment rights as it is inconsistent with the United States’ tradition of firearms
regulation. The Constitution “presumptively protects” individual conduct plainly covered by the
text of the Second Amendment, which includes an individual’s right to keep and bear arms for
self-defense. Bruen, 142 S. Ct. at 2126. Protected individuals presumptively include all
Americans. District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 581 (2008). The Supreme Court has
held that an individual’s conduct may fall outside of Second Amendment protection “[o]nly if a
firearm regulation is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition.” Bruen, 142 S. Ct. at 2126
(quoting Konigsberg v. State Bar of Cal., 366 U.S. 36, 50 n.10 (1961)). This standard differs
from the oft-used means-end scrutiny that the Supreme Court has held does not apply in the
Second Amendment context. Bruen, 142 S. Ct. at 2127. If it has been determined that the
Second Amendment applies to a person and their proposed conduct, the government bears the
burden of proving that “its firearms regulation is part of the historical tradition that delimits the
outer bounds of the right to keep and bear arms.” Id.
The Third Circuit has recently addressed Section 922(g)(1)’s disarmament of those
convicted of crimes punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year in Range v.
Attorney General. 69 F.4th. The Court determined that Bryan Range, who had a qualifying
conviction under Section 922(g)(1) for making a false statement to obtain food stamps and who
wished to possess firearms to hunt and to defend himself, could not be denied his Second
Amendment right to possess a firearm due to that conviction. See id. The Third Circuit held this
was a “narrow ruling”, intended to apply to Mr. Range and “people like Range.” Id. at 106. This
Court finds that the narrow analysis in Range also applies to the Plaintiff here.
The Second Amendment Protects Plaintiff and His Proposed Conduct.
The Third Circuit determined in Range that the Second Amendment does not only belong
to “law-abiding citizens” but presumptively belongs to all people, who may then be subjected to
the stripping of associated rights. Id. at 101-03. Therefore, the Second Amendment applies to
Plaintiff despite his criminal history. Additionally, the Second Amendment clearly covers
Plaintiff’s petition to possess a firearm contrary to the prohibitions of Section 922(g)(1). See id.
at 103 (finding that Range’s request to possess a rifle and shotgun to hunt and defend himself is
clearly protected conduct). Therefore, Second Amendment protections apply to both the Plaintiff
and his proposed conduct.
Section 922(g)(1) is Inconsistent with the United States’ History of Firearm
Regulation As Applied to Plaintiff.
The Government has not met its burden in proving that the prohibition on Plaintiff’s
possession of a firearm due to his DUI conviction is consistent with historical firearms
regulations. Finding a historical tradition of similar firearms regulations “requires that the
government identify a well-established and representative historical analogue, not a historical
twin.” Bruen, 142 S. Ct. at 2133. A modern regulation that would not have been contemplated
during the Founding Era can be found relevantly similar to then-existing regulations by
considering “how and why the regulations burden a law-abiding citizen’s right to armed selfdefense.” Id. That federal law has, over the past century, allowed for the disarmament of certain
types of convicted criminals does not satisfy the constitutional issues raised by applying Section
922(g)(1) to all convictions punishable by more than a year of imprisonment. Range, 69 F.4th at
104. Instead, the Court must consider more longstanding limitations on firearm possession to
“demarcat[e] the scope of [the] constitutional right.” Id. The historical firearms regulations
provided by the Government are not sufficiently analogous to the case considered here to satisfy
Although this Court remains quite concerned about the prospect of granting access to
firearms to persons who have demonstrably abused alcohol, it is not convinced that the general
dangerousness of drunk driving and of combining firearm use and alcohol consumption
establishes that DUIs must therefore be considered sufficiently analogous to historical examples
of ‘dangerous’ conduct that have previously served as grounds for disarmament. The
Government has offered statutes and cases for the Court’s consideration of where the right to
possess a firearm has been permissibly stripped from those deemed dangerous. (Government’s
Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (hereinafter “Govt.’s Memo”), pp.
11-13, ECF No. 73.) Accordingly, the Government argues that the legislature, through Section
922(g)(1), does not violate the Second Amendment in its determination that individuals
convicted of crimes punishable by more than one year of imprisonment, like Plaintiff, are
dangerous to society and can therefore be stripped of their right to possess a firearm. (Govt.’s
Memo, p. 13, ECF No. 73.)
In no way does the Court dispute the dangerousness of drunk driving or of combining
firearm use and alcohol consumption, and it acknowledges that Plaintiff’s offenses were serious
and his conduct during his convictions in 2004 and 2005 dangerous. However, that legislatures
have historically labelled certain groups and conduct dangerous for the purposes of disarmament
does not, in of itself, create a historical analogue to the present-day prohibition on firearm
possession by those convicted of DUIs. The Range Court had rejected the argument that statusbased restrictions on ‘dangerous’ groups identified as such by the legislature would constitute an
appropriate analogy to Section 922(g)(1) today. 69 F.4th at 104-05; see also Bruen, 142 S. Ct. at
2134 (noting that legislatures are not empowered to “eviscerate the general right to publicly carry
arms for self-defense” with overbroad categorizations). Historical regulations on persons
deemed dangerous do not present a sufficient historical analogue without showing that the
regulated conduct itself is analogous to Plaintiff’s.
Similarly, the Court finds the Government’s argument that Section 922(g)(1) can be
appropriately applied to Plaintiff because of historical regulations on the possession of a firearm
by a presently intoxicated person unavailing. The Government points to several regulations
permitting the disarmament of drunk or intoxicated persons. (Govt.’s Memo, pp. 13-14, ECF
No. 73.) None of these regulations allude to disarmament lasting beyond the individual’s state of
intoxication, and none provided for permanent disarmament, as Section 922(g)(1) does.
Certainly, this Court agrees that using a firearm while intoxicated is dangerous, but historical
regulations which momentarily disarmed certain individuals for temporary mental incapacity
cannot be considered similar to the sanction of permanent disarmament for past DUI convictions.
As noted in Range, “government confiscation of the instruments of crime,” including to prevent
an imminent crime, “differs from a status-based lifetime ban on firearm possession.” 69 F.4th at
105. As stated in Bruen, the Court must consider the “how and why” behind Second
Amendment restrictions to determine whether the modern articulation is relevantly similar to its
proposed historical analogue. 142 S. Ct. at 2133. The language in the regulations offered by the
Government suggests an interest in protecting the public from an inevitable danger caused by
allowing a presently intoxicated person to use a firearm. (Govt.’s Memo, pp. 13-14, ECF No.
73.) Section 922(g)(1)’s prohibition on firearm possession for those convicted of a DUI cannot,
without significant speculation by the Court, be considered as having a substantially similar
Additionally, a DUI cannot be considered to belong to the class of convictions – namely
for crimes of violence – for which there is a longstanding regulatory tradition justifying
permanent disarmament. The Federal Firearms Act defines a crime of violence as a felony that
“has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person
or property of another.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(D)(3); see also Comprehensive Crime Control
Act of 1984, 18 U.S.C. § 16 (using nearly identical language); but see United States v. Davis,
139 S. Ct. 2319, 2324 (2019) (finding that the secondary definition of a crime of violence in that
statute was unconstitutionally vague). In Leocal v. Ashcroft, the Supreme Court found that,
under 18 U.S.C. § 16, a Florida DUI cannot be considered a crime of violence because it lacked a
mens rea requirement, as does the relevant Pennsylvania statute here. 543 U.S. 1, 4, 7-8 (2004).
Therefore, Plaintiff’s DUI cannot be categorically defined as a crime of violence for which there
may be historical support for Second Amendment restrictions.
For all these reasons, the Court finds that the Government has not carried its burden in
proving that the United States’ tradition of firearm regulation supports stripping an individual of
their right to possess a firearm because they had previously driven while intoxicated. The
application of Section 922(g)(1) to Plaintiff, therefore, constitutes a violation of his Second
Amendment rights, and the Court finds that Plaintiff is entitled to the requested relief.
The Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment is Granted, and Defendants’ Motion for
Summary Judgment is Denied.
An appropriate Order follows.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
BY THE COURT:
/s/ John Milton Younge
Judge John Milton Younge
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