The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled on Tuesday that the Second Amendment of the Constitution protects non-violent offenders from federal firearm bans. The case resulted from Bryan Range’s appeal from the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Circuit Judge Thomas M. Hardiman authored the opinion of the court. The court ruled that under new US Supreme Court precedent from New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, the federal government “did not carry its burden of showing that our Nation’s history of firearm regulation supports disarming Range.” Under this new framework, “only if a firearm regulation is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition may a court conclude that the individual’s conduct falls outside the Second Amendment’s unqualified command.” The burden is on the government to prove that its regulation is part of the Nation’s tradition.
Range had a prior non-violent conviction that was punishable by up to five years of imprisonment. Under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), convicts cannot buy firearms through interstate commerce if they were convicted of a crime “punishable” by an imprisonment term exceeding one year. This law prevented Range from purchasing a gun after his conviction. Range then sued, seeking a declaration that the statute violated the Second Amendment “as applied to him.” The district court dismissed Range’s claim based on prior Third Circuit precedent and before the Bruen case came out. At the time, the Third Circuit had a five-step test to determine if a crime was serious enough to take away a convict’s gun rights. The court ruled that Range failed the test because there was “no cross-jurisdictional consensus as to the seriousness of the crime” that Range was convicted for.
Circuit Judge Patty Shwartz wrote a dissenting opinion. While the majority opinion noted that its decision is a “narrow one,” Shwartz asserts that the court’s decision will have a wide-ranging impact. Shwartz argued that the new analytical framework that the Third Circuit adopted renders “most, if not all, felon bans unconstitutional.”
Gun rights continue to be a tumultuous issue across the US, with Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont recently signing comprehensive gun control measures into law.