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Guns ruling spawns legal challenges by felons

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  • Guns ruling spawns legal challenges by felons

    Opinions?

    WASHINGTON - Twice convicted of felonies, James Francis Barton Jr. faces charges of violating a federal law barring felons from owning guns after police found seven pistols, three shotguns and five rifles at his home south of Pittsburgh.

    As a defense, Barton and several other defendants in federal gun cases argue that last month's Supreme Court ruling allows them to keep loaded handguns at home for self-defense.

    "Felons, such as Barton, have the need and the right to protect themselves and their families by keeping firearms in their home," says David Chontos, Barton's court-appointed lawyer.

    Chontos and other criminal defense lawyers say the high court's decision means federal laws designed to keep guns out of the hands of people convicted of felonies and crimes of domestic violence are unconstitutional as long as the weapons are needed for self-defense.

    So far, federal judges uniformly have agreed these restrictions are unchanged by the Supreme Court's landmark interpretation of the Second Amendment.

    "The line I'm proposing, at the home, is entirely consistent" with the Supreme Court ruling, said Chontos, a lawyer in Turtle Creek, Pa. A court hearing on the issue is scheduled for late July.

    New angle of attack
    The legal attacks by Chontos and other criminal defense lawyers are separate from civil lawsuits by the National Rifle Association and others challenging handgun bans in Chicago and its suburbs as well as a total ban on guns in public housing units in San Francisco.

    People on both sides of the gun control issue say they expect numerous attacks against local, state and federal laws based on the high court's 5-4 ruling that struck down the District of Columbia's ban on handguns. The opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia also suggested, however, that many gun control measures could remain in place.

    Denis Henigan, vice president for law and policy at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said Scalia essentially was reassuring people that the laws keeping guns from felons and people with mental illness and out of government buildings and schools would withstand challenges. But Henigan said he is not surprised by felons pressing for gun-ownership rights.

    "The court has cast us into uncharted waters here. There is no question about that," Henigan said.

    "There is now uncertainty where there was none before," he said. "Gun laws were routinely upheld and they were considered policy issues to be decided by legislatures."

    At the Justice Department, spokesman Erik Ablin said the agency's lawyers "will continue to defend vigorously the constitutionality, under the Second Amendment, of all federal firearms laws and will respond to particular challenges in court."

    City bans most vulnerable
    Cities' outright bans on handguns probably are the most vulnerable laws following the Supreme Court ruling. Many lawyers and Second Amendment experts believe that restrictions on gun ownership in public housing also will be difficult to defend.

    The question for courts will be whether the government has more power when it acts as a landlord, as it does in public housing, than in general.

    "I think there's a very substantial chance that these kinds of ordinances will be struck down because they are aimed at people who have shown no reason to be viewed as untrustworthy," said Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has written about gun rights.

    San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has said the city will defend the policy as good for public safety. "Is there anyone out there who really believes that we need more guns in public housing?" Newsom said when the suit was filed a day after the Supreme Court ruled on Washington's handgun ban.

    In the District of Columbia, the city housing authority is considering whether its prohibition on firearms in public housing can survive the court ruling, spokeswoman Dena Michaelson said.

    But Volokh and some gun rights proponents said people convicted of crimes are less likely to succeed in their challenges.

    "Many felons may need self defense more than you and I, but the government has extra justification for limiting that right because they have proven themselves to be untrustworthy," Volokh said.

    A gun for Scooter Libby?
    Judges may find it harder to resolve cases in which nonviolent criminals, particularly those whose only offense happened long ago, are charged with gun possession.

    "Do you think Scooter Libby should have a gun?" asked Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University who says the ruling will complicate the work of the courts, prosecutors and police. He was referring to former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was convicted of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI in the CIA leak investigation.

    A more plausible case for being allowed a gun might be made by someone now in his 50s or 60s who was convicted as a teenager of taking a car for a joyride, said Stephen P. Halbrook, a gun rights supporter and lawyer. "You might have a court look at that differently," Halbrook said.

    The Supreme Court has a case on its calendar for the fall that could indicate whether the justices are inclined to expand their ruling.

    In United States v. Hayes, the government is asking the court to reinstate a conviction for possession of a gun for someone previously convicted of a domestic violence crime. In 1994, Randy Hayes received a year of probation after pleading guilty to beating his wife.

    The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction because the West Virginia law Hayes violated does not specifically deal with domestic violence crimes. The question for the high court, then, is a technical one: whether the law has to include domestic violence to be used in the future to prevent someone from owning guns?

    Advocates on both sides of the gun control debate will be watching closely to see whether the court's D.C. decision is relevant to the Hayes case and, if so, how.
    "All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing." --Edmund Burke

    "We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would harm us." --George Orwell

    "So long as there are men, there will be wars."
    --Albert Einstein

  • #2
    I have always agreed, released felons should have all rights restored. If someone is a continued threat to society then they should not be released.

    Comment


    • #3
      So a released felon should be allowed to carry a gun? Thats cr***zy man...

      Comment


      • #4
        Release does not mean absolution.

        Comment


        • #5
          Non-violent offenders should be allowed to carry.

          If a person were in prison for stealing a car and going for a joyride, then I see no reason to deny him the right to carry.

          If a person were a rapist, murderer, or child molester, then continued denial is fine.

          Just my unprofessional opinion.
          http://hoppeshomestead.blogspot.com/

          The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government. – Thomas Jefferson

          Comment


          • #6
            No problem in barring convicted felons from carrying..........if they violate society's rules then society has a right to demand punishment not limited to just time.

            Comment


            • #7
              Most people that have the right to carry don't choose to do so. Why let someone who's at best irresponsible do so? If you were 19 and screwed up that badly, OK maybe if you wait 'til you're 30, and you've grown up, with 10 years of no crime, in my opinion.

              Comment


              • #8

                All other opinions aside, I don't see anything about the recent (DC vs. Heller) court case that would allow a felon to all of a sudden claim they have the right to "self defense" firearms in their home. What has changed for that long-standing gun prohibition in the recent court case? Nothing that I can see.

                Anyway, I figured it would not be long before somebody would want felons to have their Second Amendment rights restored. After all, look how many groups are trying to get voting rights restored for ex-cons. Jeez! I know the Democrat Party needs more people voting, but isn't it enough just to stick with dead & mentally disabled people?


                {Sorry, I just could not resist!}

                As for the Brady Campaign (or whatever Dennis Henigan's outfit calls itself nowadays), they really do not oppose "gun violence" -- but seek to do anything possible (constitutional or otherwise) to keep ordinary citizens from owning, possessing or carrying firearms whenever possible. They hate guns more than they hate crime or criminals, for Pete's sake.


                That outfit (along with others) always opposes measures that benefit society and reduce violent crime (concealed-carry, Castle Doctrine laws, etc.), while favoring laws & ordinances that put more law-abiding people in danger by leaving them disarmed and defenseless. Duh!

                The comments above reflect my personal opinion as a private citizen, ordinary motorist and all-around good guy.

                The aforementioned advice should not be construed to represent any type of professional opinion, legal counsel or other type of instruction with regard to traffic laws, judicial proceedings or official agency policy.

                ------------------------------------------------

                "Ignorance on fire is hotter than knowledge on ice."

                Comment


                • #9
                  I've never understood why convicted felons are not allowed to vote.
                  I've also never understood why those convicted of non-violent felonies were stripped of their second amendment rights.
                  Violent felons? Fark 'em.
                  sigpic
                  Don't make me gassy.
                  You wouldn't LIKE me when I'm gassy...
                  _________________________________

                  If you're offended by something that I've said...it was just your turn.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Mrs. Hoppes View Post
                    Non-violent offenders should be allowed to carry.
                    So you have no problem with someone convicted of, say, burglary and selling meth legally carrying? Getting out of jail or getting off of parole doesn't imply the maturity and responsibility needed to responsibly own a gun. Twelve year olds are not generally incarcerated but they can't use weapons without parental consent. Many nonrecidivist ex-cons still only have the maturity of 12 yr olds. Besides, many of them would have a reduced need for self-defense if they stopped hanging out with their old friends and enemies.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Are they first time offenders or repeat offenders? How long since their release? Are they still on probation? If it was a drug-related crime, are they clean? For how long?
                      http://hoppeshomestead.blogspot.com/

                      The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government. – Thomas Jefferson

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ComicGuy View Post
                        I've never understood why convicted felons are not allowed to vote.
                        I've also never understood why those convicted of non-violent felonies were stripped of their second amendment rights.
                        Violent felons? Fark 'em.
                        Because they have demonstrated an inability to abide by the laws, even those most basic and seriuos laws of our society. They have shown a lack of good citizenship.

                        I have absolutely zero problems with denying the vote and posession of firearms to convicted felons.
                        "That's right man, we've got mills here that'll blow that heap of your's right off the road."

                        "Beautiful Daughter of the Stars."(it's my home now)

                        >>>>> A Time for Choosing <<<<<

                        Retired @ 31yr 2mo as of 0000 hrs. 01-01-10. Yeah, all in all, it was good.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          You commit a felony, you get convicted, you lose your rights.
                          You want to keep 'em, don't commit crimes.
                          It works for the other millions of people in this country that abide by the laws.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Mrs. Hoppes View Post
                            Non-violent offenders should be allowed to carry.

                            If a person were in prison for stealing a car and going for a joyride, then I see no reason to deny him the right to carry.

                            If a person were a rapist, murderer, or child molester, then continued denial is fine.

                            Just my unprofessional opinion.
                            Is joyriding a felony in the first place?

                            I do somewhat agree, though--is an embezzler really a risk of violence?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Why did they embezzel in the first place? Narco addiction? Gambling addiction? Pay off La Cosa Nostra for services rendered? Yeah, embezelment should be on the list too.

                              Comment

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