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Third Circuit rejects Second Amendment rights for felons

The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] on Friday ruled [opinion, PDF] that barring convicted felons from possessing firearms does not infringe upon their constitutional rights. Attorneys for James Barton, previously convicted on drug and weapons charges, argued that his 2007 arrest on two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm under 18 USC § 922(g)(1) [text] constitutes a violation of Barton's Second Amendment [text] rights. The court's ruling acknowledges an individual's right to bear arms as "fundamental," but also recognizes the validity of "longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms," including prior felony convictions. Responding to Barton's citation to the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], in which the right to possess a handgun in one's home for the purpose of self-defense was upheld, the court noted that the decision was conditioned on a finding that the party is "not 'disqualified from the exercise of Second Amendment rights.'" Per the court, the nature of Barton's earlier offenses and their correlation with violent crime rendered the argument inapplicable.

In June, the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] in a 5-4 decision that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment makes the Second Amendment applicable to states as well as the federal government. In the case of McDonald v. Chicago [Cornell LII backgrounder], the Supreme Court struck down the city's ordinance that effectively banned the possession of handguns in the city. The ruling was premised in part on the Heller decision, in that that the Second Amendment right to own firearms for lawful purposes is not unlimited.

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