Recent Supreme Court Decision Presents Avenue for Felons to Possess Guns Again
Last year when the United States Supreme Court announced its decision in New York Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, many advocates of Second Amendment rights saw an opening for greatly expanding gun ownership, possession, and the laws governing the same in the United States. The ruling overturned a New York state gun law which required individuals to show proper cause for why they should be allowed to carry a firearm in public before the state would effectively issue a concealed carry license, but the implications are much further reaching. While the ruling explicitly left in place regulations such as background checks, it found that for a restriction on an individual’s right to own and possess a firearm to be valid “the government must affirmatively prove that its firearms regulation is part of the historical tradition” and was present at the time of the passing of the Second Amendment. This replaced the prior standard and was immediately met with new challenges to gun laws across the country, including the prohibition against felons owning and possessing a firearm.
Emerging Circuit Split Over Convicted Felons Ability to Possess Firearms
Recently the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit declined to revisit an earlier ruling in that Circuit that upheld a conviction for a man found guilty by a jury of possessing a handgun after previously being convicted of a felony drug conviction, stating that Bruen did not make the law against felons possessing handguns unconstitutional. In contrast, this past June, the Philadelphia-based United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that certain individuals should not be subject to a lifetime ban on possessing firearms if they are nonviolent offenders, and a Mississippi based federal judge likewise dismissed charges against a felon in possession of a firearm, finding the statute (18 USC §922(g)) unconstitutional given the Bruen decision, which we covered in an earlier blog. As predicted in that blog, these decisions are shaping up to inevitably lead to a Supreme Court review given the split amongst the Circuit Courts of Appeal and to prevent potentially uneven application of the law. Many believe it appears likely that ultimately nonviolent offenders will be able to lawfully possess firearms.