Third Circuit appeals court rules federal ban on former felons owning guns is unconstitutional

The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit handed down a ruling on Tuesday in favor of Second Amendment rights of ex-felons.


The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit handed down a ruling on Tuesday in favor of Second Amendment rights of ex-felons. The issue in question was the “felon-in-possession” law, which currently disallows ex-felons from possessing firearms. Jonathan Turley mentioned that the recent decision is sure to set up a “Supreme Court showdown over the Second Amendment.”

As it stands, the federal law does not allow any person who “has been convicted in any court, of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” to “possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition.” In the recent case, Bryan David Range pleaded guilty in the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County of making false statements in an effort to acquire food stamps. 

Ranger later explained that he was supporting his family by making between $9.00 and $9.50 an hour, which came out to about $300 per week. Ranger’s wife apparently understated Range’s actual income, which he signed off on. Ranger later took responsibility for the misrepresentation, per the report.

As a result, Range received three years of probation and was forced to pay thousands of dollars in fines. But when Range pleaded guilty in 1995, it was only considered a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania, punishable by up to five years in prison. This triggered the federal ban, according to Turley. When his wife purchased Ranger a deer-hunting rifle, he realized that he had been banned under federal law.

Consequently, the majority ruled: “In sum, we reject the Government’s contention that only ‘law-abiding, responsible citizens’ are counted among ‘the people’ protected by the Second Amendment. Heller and its progeny lead us to conclude that Bryan Range remains among ‘the people’ despite his 1995 false statement conviction.”

“Having determined that Range is one of ‘the people,’ we turn to the easy question: whether § 922(g)(1) regulates Second Amendment conduct. It does. Range’s request—to possess a rifle to hunt and a shotgun to defend himself at home—tracks the constitutional right as defined by Heller. 554 U.S. at 582 (“[T]he Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”). So ‘the Second Amendment’s plain text covers [Range’s] conduct,’ and ‘the Constitution presumptively protects that conduct.’ Bruen, 142 S. Ct. at 2126.”
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