The 3rd Circuit Considers Whether Nonviolent Crimes Justify the Loss of Second Amendment Rights
Back in 1995, Bryan Range pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining $2,458 in food stamps by misrepresenting his income. He returned the money, paid a $100 fine and $288 in court costs, and served three years of probation.
Although Range did not realize it, that Pennsylvania misdemeanor conviction also came with a lifelong penalty: He lost his constitutional right to keep and bear arms. His case, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit will hear next month, poses the question of whether that policy, which prohibits gun ownership by millions of Americans with no history of violence, violates the Second Amendment.
Federal law generally makes it a felony to purchase or possess a gun if you have been convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year of incarceration. When a state classifies a crime as a misdemeanor, that disqualification applies if the maximum penalty exceeds two years.
Range’s crime was punishable by up to five years in prison, which meant he was no longer allowed to buy or own a firearm. When he tried to buy a deer-hunting rifle in 1998, he failed the background check.
Range figured that must have been a mistake. His wife bought him a rifle, then bought him another after the first one was destroyed in a house fire. Range later tried again to buy a gun but was again turned away, which prompted him to take a closer look at the federal prohibition, which is commonly described as applying to “felons.”
After discovering that he was a “prohibited person” even though he had not been convicted of a felony, Range sold his hunting rifle to a gun dealer. But for that law, he says, he would have kept the rifle and might also have bought a shotgun for home defense.
Range’s initial confusion about his status is not surprising, since the rule he inadvertently violated does not make much sense. Although it is ostensibly aimed at protecting public safety, it does n
Article from Reason.com