United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MICHAEL L. KEYES and JONATHAN K. YOX, Plaintiffs,
LORETTA E. LYNCH, Attorney General of the United States, et al., Defendants,
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
E. Jones III United States District Judge
pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion to
alter/amend judgment (“the Motion”) as to our
November 9, 2015 Order granting Defendants' motion to
dismiss. (Doc. 21). The Motion has been fully briefed (Docs.
53, 54, 57) and is therefore ripe for our review. For the
reasons that follow, the Motion shall be granted.
Motion asks the Court to amend or alter our Order of November
9, 2015, where we granted Defendants' motion to dismiss
and found that Plaintiff Keyes was barred from raising his
Second Amendment as-applied challenge by issue preclusion. In
accordance with the standard of review applicable to a motion
to dismiss, the following facts are derived from the
Plaintiffs' Complaint and are viewed in the light most
favorable to the Plaintiffs.
Michael Keyes is a Master Trooper with the Pennsylvania State
Police (“PSP”). (Doc. 1, ¶ 7). Plaintiff
Jonathan Yox is a State Correctional Officer at the State
Correctional Institution at Graterford. (Id., ¶
Keyes and Yox were each once involuntarily committed for
mental health concerns. Keyes was involuntarily committed as
an adult at Holy Spirit Hospital in Cumberland County,
Pennsylvania, on August 25, 2006, as a result of
“imbibing in alcoholic beverages and making suicidal
statements” as he was struggling through an
“emotionally devastating” divorce. (Id.,
¶¶ 7, 21). He was initially involuntarily committed
pursuant to 50 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 7302, allegedly in the
absence of any due process, and then later, pursuant to 50
Pa. Stat. Ann. § 7303. (Id.). He was released
by September 8, 2006. (Id.). Keyes never threatened
to use a firearm against himself or others. (Id.,
involuntarily committed as a juvenile at York Hospital, in
Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, on March 30, 2006.
(Id., ¶ 50). He had been emotionally devastated
by his parents' divorce and had begun cutting himself
under the influence of an older girl. They also had made a
suicide pact together. (Id., ¶¶ 48-50). He
was also initially involuntarily committed pursuant to 50 Pa.
Stat. Ann. § 7302, allegedly in the absence of due
process, and then later, pursuant to 50 Pa. Stat. Ann. §
7303. (Id., ¶ 50). Yox was released by April 6,
2006. (Id.). In 2008, when he was 17, Yox enlisted
in the U.S. Army. He honorably served until 2012, when he
received an honorable discharge. (Id., ¶¶
52-53). During his time in the military, Yox spent six and a
half months in a combat zone in Afghanistan. (Id.,
¶ 54). During his military service, Yox was trained to
use, and did use, various kinds of firearms, including fully
automatic rifles, machine guns, explosives, and grenade
launchers. (Id., ¶ 55). Upon his return from
Afghanistan, Yox was not recommended for further
psychological evaluation after his deployment briefing.
(Id., ¶ 56).
result of their involuntary commitments, Plaintiffs lost
their “private capacity firearm rights” by
operation of 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6105(c)(4) and 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g)(4). (Id., ¶ 23). The Pennsylvania
statute prohibits a “person who has been adjudicated as
an incompetent or who has been involuntarily committed to a
mental institution for inpatient care and treatment . .
.” from possessing or using a firearm. 18 Pa.C.S.A.
§ 6105(c)(4). The federal statute, 18 U.S.C. §
922(g)(4), prohibits any person “who has been
adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed
to a mental institution” from possessing firearms or
their inability to possess guns in their private capacities,
both Plaintiffs carry and use firearms in their current jobs.
In his official capacity as a Master Trooper, Keyes carries a
handgun on a daily basis, and when on patrol, he carries a
fully automatic rifle and a shotgun. (Id., ¶
32). Yox actively possesses and uses a firearm in his
official capacity as a State Correctional Officer.
(Id., ¶ 68). They are permitted to possess
firearms in their official capacities as law enforcement
officers by operation of 18 U.S.C. § 925(a)(1), which
provides an exception to the firearms disability created by
§ 922(g)(4) for individuals benefitting in their
official capacities the federal or state government.
(Id., ¶ 74).
December 3, 2008, Keyes filed for Restoration of his State
Firearm Rights with the Perry County Court of Common Pleas,
pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6105(f). (Id., ¶ 24).
The state court judge issued an order relieving Keyes only of
his state firearm disability, finding that “Petitioner
has in fact met his burden of showing that he may possess a
firearm without risk to himself or any other person under the
applicable provisions of law.” (Id.,
¶¶ 25-26). On May 9, 2012, Keyes filed a request
for expungement of his involuntary commitment; this request
was denied by the state court. (Id., ¶ 26).
Keyes appealed this decision to the Superior Court. The
Superior Court held that the language “the court may
grant such relief as it deems appropriate” found in 18
Pa.C.S.A. § 6105(f)(1) does not provide the trial court
with the power to expunge mental health commitment records
and then affirmed the trial court's decision. In re
Keyes, 83 A.3d 1016, 1024 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2013),
appeal denied, 101 A.3d. 104 (Pa. 2014).
(Id., ¶ 27).
about September or October of 2012, Yox was denied the
ability to purchase a firearm after a Pennsylvania Instant
Background Check System search. (Id., ¶ 57). He
appealed this denial to the PSP, which then informed him that
he was prohibited pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6105 and 18
U.S.C. § 922(g) from owning a firearm based on his
involuntary commitment in 2006. (Id., ¶ 58).
After having been evaluated by a psychologist who determined
within a reasonable degree of psychological certainty that
Yox did not pose a threat to himself or others, Yox filed a
Petition to Vacate and Expunge his involuntary commitment
with the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas.
(Id., ¶¶ 59-60). However, the court found
it was bound by In re Keyes and therefore prohibited
from granting the relief of expungement. The court did grant
Yox state relief from any disability imposed pursuant to 18
Pa.C.S.A. § 6105, based on a finding that Yox no longer
suffers from the mental health condition that was the basis
for his commitment and is able to safely possess a firearm
with risk to himself or others. (Id., ¶¶
receipt and review of this state court order, the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Explosives',
(“ATF”), Philadelphia Division Counsel Kevin
White confirmed that it was ATF's position and policy
that Yox remains prohibited under federal law from
purchasing, possessing, or utilizing firearms in his private
capacity, but that he could continue to possess and utilize
firearms in his official capacity as a State Correctional
Officer. (Id., ¶ 64).
Keyes and Yox presently intend to purchase and possess
firearms in their private capacities for self-defense within
their respective homes. (Id., ¶¶ 44, 69).
However, they are prevented from doing so only by
Defendants' active enforcement of the laws and policies
complained of in the matter sub judice. Keyes and
Yox are unwilling to purchase, possess, or utilize a firearm
in their private capacities because they fear arrest,
prosecution, fine, and/or incarceration for violating 18
U.S.C. § 922(g)(4). (Id., ¶¶ 46, 70).
March 5, 2015, Plaintiffs Michael L. Keyes, (“Mr.
Keyes”), and Jonathan K. Yox, (“Mr. Yox”),
filed a Complaint, alleging violations of their asserted
Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and Fifth
Amendment equal protection and due process rights. (Doc. 1).
Count I of the Complaint contends that, as applied to
Plaintiffs, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4) violates the Second
Amendment. Count II alleges that, as applied to Mr. Yox,
§ 922(g)(4) violates the Second Amendment because Mr.
Yox was under the age of 18 when he was involuntarily
committed. Count III alleges that § 922(g)(4) violates
the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment as applied to
Plaintiffs. Lastly, Count IV alleges that § 922(g)(4)
violates Plaintiffs' equal protection rights secured
under the Fifth Amendment. Plaintiffs seek various forms of
declaratory and injunctive relief.
filed a partial motion to dismiss on May 11, 2015. (Doc. 10).
On November 9, 2015, the Court granted Defendants'
motion. (Doc. 21). Counts I and IV were dismissed with
prejudice with respect to Plaintiff Michael Keyes on the
basis of issue preclusion, because we held that Mr. Keyes had
previously litigated these same issues in a previous state
court action. Mr. Keyes's claims alleged in Count III
were dismissed without prejudice, and leave to amend was
granted to the extent that there were facts, if true, which
supported his due process claims. Additionally, Mr. Yox's
equal protection claim alleged in Count IV was dismissed
without prejudice, and leave to amend was granted to the
extent he possessed facts supporting this
November 17, 2015, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint.
(Doc. 24). The Amended Complaint includes a new cause of
action, contained in Count V, in which both Plaintiffs allege
claims under the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007,
Pub. L. No. 110-180, 122 Stat. ...