District Court Dismisses Indictment in Potentially Landmark Ruling
A federal district court judge, the Honorable Carlton Reeves, in the Southern District of Mississippi dismissed an indictment against a man charged with being a felon in possession of a gun in violation of 18 USC 922(g)(1) on the grounds that the statute as currently written is unconstitutional. The defendant in the case, Jessie Bullock, was previously incarcerated on charges of aggravated assault and manslaughter in 1992 and served about 15 or 16 years in prison for his conviction. As a result of this conviction, under federal law Mr. Bullock was prohibited from possessing a firearm for the rest of his life. Federal charges were brought after it was alleged that Mr. Bullock possessed a firearm in his home in 2018, long after his incarceration ended. Keen court observers may have predicted the dismissal, as the judge in this case earlier ordered the parties to brief him on whether he should appoint a historian to review the impact of the decision on the case at issue given the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen from 2022. In Bruen the Supreme Court ruled that a New York state law that restricted gun ownership violated individuals Second Amendment rights because gun restrictions are constitutional only if there is a tradition of such regulation in United States history. Judge Reeves ruled that given the facts of the case at issue and the lack of a historical record for said regulation, the federal regulation preventing a felon from ever being able to own a firearm for self-defense in one’s home infringed on individual’s Second Amendment rights and was thus unconstitutional.
Potential Impact Across the Country
The impact of this decision will be closely watched in the near future as this controversial opinion will undoubtedly be challenged and appealed. Even Judge Reeves conceded in his ruling that there are instances in which the government likely can regulate certain individuals from gun ownership, but that the statute as currently written is too broad. Undoubtedly many inmates currently serving prison sentences for the same crime will consider appellate options in light of this case and its analysis, and those currently accused of violating the same statute and facing trial will likely mount a similar constitutional challenge which will ultimately invite further review by higher courts. The constitutionality of firearm legislation has been the subject of significant litigation in the wake of last years Bruen opinion.