Alan Gura won a big one in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Amendment. In an 8-7 en banc decision, the court found that some people who had non-violent misdemeanors and/or felonies could get their Second Amendment rights restored. The court combined the cases of Binderup v. Attorney General and Suarez v. Attorney General for their hearing.
Only three judges agreed on the court’s rationale for restoring the gun rights of Mr Binderup and Mr. Suarez. Another five judges concurred in the outcome but for different reason while seven judges dissented. The court’s governing opinion found:
Binderup and Suarez have presented unrebutted
evidence that their offenses were nonviolent and now decades
old, and that they present no threat to society, which places
them within the class persons who have a right to keep and
bear arms. Accordingly, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) is
unconstitutional as applied to them.
The court’s opinion, concurrences, and dissent total 178 pages of somewhat confusing logic as to the restoration of gun rights. Professor Eugene Volokh presents a good summary of it here.
The Second Amendment Foundation is very pleased with the result. It is a good win going into the Gun Rights Policy Conference later this month.
BELLEVUE, WA – The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that individuals convicted of certain non-serious misdemeanor crimes do not lose their fundamental rights under the Second Amendment in a decision involving two separate cases brought by the Second Amendment Foundation.
The unanimous ruling came from an en banc panel in the combined cases of Binderup v. the U.S. Attorney General and Suarez v. the U.S. Attorney General.
In 1990, Julio Suarez was stopped on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. At the time he was carrying a handgun and spare ammunition without a permit. He pleaded guilty in Maryland state court to the charge and received a 180-day suspended sentence and $500 fine. Daniel Binderup pleaded guilty in 1996 to a misdemeanor charge related to a consensual relationship he had with a 17-year-old female employee and received three years’ probation and a $300 fine. Neither man was ever incarcerated.
However, in both cases, the crimes could have resulted in jail time for which the federal gun law blocks firearms possession. Binderup and Suarez petitioned the Pennsylvania court in 2009 to remove the state prohibition against firearms possession, but federal law “continues to bar them from possessing firearms because their convictions have not been expunged or set aside, they have not been pardoned, and their civil rights have not been restored,” the court noted.
“Where the Second Amendment’s guarantees apply, as they do for Binderup and Suarez, ‘certain policy choices’ are ‘necessarily’ taken ‘off the table.’ Forever prohibiting them from possessing any firearm is one of those policy choices,” the appeals court said in today’s ruling.
“Today’s victory confirms that the government can’t simply disarm anyone it wishes,” stated SAF attorney Alan Gura. “At an absolute minimum, people convicted of non-serious crimes, who pose no threat to anyone, retain their fundamental rights. That this is even controversial is a matter of some concern.”
SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb cheered the ruling, adding that, “In an era where government officials want to disqualify as many people as possible from gun ownership, this ruling is monumental. This case will lead to the restoration of people’s civil and constitutional right to own a firearm that is long overdue.”
Gottlieb noted that today’s victory once again reinforces SAF’s long-stated mission of “Winning firearms freedom, one case at a time.”
Professor Volokh is of the opinion that if the Department of Justice decides to appeal the case it will most likely be taken up by the Supreme Court. If they do, it will be interesting to see where the Court’s liberals who are anti-gun come down on this. While they are anti-gun, they tend to be more supportive of rights for those who have broken the law in the past. Given that both Mr. Binderup and Mr. Suarez were convicted of non-violent misdemeanors for which they served no actual jail time and that they kept their noses clean after that, saying that there is a strong governmental interest in prohibiting them from possessing firearms would be a stretch.