Monday, June 30, 2008
N.Y. Sun.com: The Supreme Court's historic decision on the Second Amendment could make millions of felons eligible to own guns.
Under current federal law, the vast majority of felons are prohibited from so much as touching a gun or ammunition, on pain of punishment of up to 10 years in prison.
Some legal experts now say that the constitutionality of that law, known as the "felon in possession" law, was deeply undermined by the Supreme Court's decision Thursday in District of Columbia v. Heller.
In that case, the court held that the Second Amendment gives individuals the right to keep a handgun at home for protection. The court struck down a handgun ban in Washington, D.C. Gun rights groups have begun challenging bans elsewhere.
But little attention has been paid to the effect that the court's decision could have on regulations defining which groups of people can be excluded from gun ownership.
"The Court might decide there are some classes of felons that ought to be treated differently from other classes of felons," a former solicitor general, Theodore Olson, said in an interview on Thursday about the prospect that the Supreme Court may eventually permit felons to own guns.
Crimes ranging from murder to writing a hot check can count as felonies. The felon-in-possession law applies to people convicted of state crimes as well as federal crimes.
At the end of 2001 there were 5.6 million adult felons living in this country who either had been to prison or were still behind bars, according to Justice Department figures. But the number of felons is actually much higher because many felons are sentenced to probation and never do any time.
The only felons who can lawfully retain a gun, according to exceptions written into the statute, are those convicted of anti-trust violations or crimes involving unfair trading practices.
In interviews, several legal experts say that lower court judges should interpret the Supreme Court's decision in Heller to permit non-violent felons to own weapons.
"Why not? I can't see why they shouldn't have gun rights if they don't have a record of violent crime," a lawyer who financed the Heller case, Robert Levy, said. "If the nature of their crime has nothing to do with the commission of violence than it's a pretty strange punishment that would deprive ex-felons of the ability to defend themselves."
Continue reading article here. [Brooks Holland]