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Should a Misdemeanor End Your Second Amendment Rights?

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Did you know that some misdemeanors negate your right to own guns?

Today, the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) threw in their support for a very important upcoming Third Circuit court case, which will hopefully answer one of the most controversial questions at the heart of the Second Amendment debate. The FPC is filing of a critical brief with the court, in the case of Bryan Range v. Att’y General of the U.S. Bryan Range is a case study in just how careful we need to be when we define what a “criminal” is, and how severe his crime must be before we remove his right to keep and bear arms. Although most of us are aware that felons lose their 2A rights, many of us don’t know that there are some misdemeanors that will, too.

Meet Bryan Range.

Range isn’t a felon. Decades ago, he made a false statement on a government form in order to obtain food stamps assistance. That’s just a misdemeanor, and it’s clearly not violent. Now, nobody likes to hear about food-stamp fraud. But under that conviction for his non-violent crime, he not only served no time in jail, but he made restitution for the crime. Range has been a peaceable citizen since, has been gainfully employed, and a family man. It doesn’t matter; because of the conviction twenty-six years ago, he is unconstitutionally banned forever from possessing and protecting himself and his family with firearms, a fundamental right protected by the Second Amendment.

“There is no tradition in American history of banning peaceable citizens from owning firearms,” FPC’s brief argues. “The historical justification Heller relied on to declare felon bans ‘presumptively lawful’ must have been the tradition of disarming dangerous persons.” The brief notes that in English tradition, “dangerous persons” were most often “disaffected persons disloyal to the current government, who might want to overthrow it—or political opponents defined as such.” American history, from the early colonial days through the mid-twentieth century, followed the same tradition. Peaceable persons like Mr. Range, by contrast, were never prohibited from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.

Ever fudge your weight by a few pounds on your driver’s license?

It’s true that our national laws against fibbing on government forms are necessary. It’s also true that the lying Range did was in order to commit fraud, not pretend he was an inch taller than he really is. That said, the law is the law…and it’s one that many of us have broken without much thought.

“Lying on a government form to acquire more food stamps for your family is not the type of crime that justifies the permanent elimination of the human right to keep and bear arms for self-defense,” explained FPC attorney Matthew Larosiere, who co-authored the brief. “The right to keep and bear arms is not a privilege reserved to America’s ruling class, and the government cannot support its ban as applied to Mr. Range under a proper constitutional analysis.”

“Mr. Range is completely and forever prohibited from possessing firearms based on a 26-year-old nonviolent misdemeanor conviction,” said FPC’s Joseph Greenlee. “The founders never intended for someone like him to be deprived of the right to own a firearm for any period of time, let alone for life. We believe that the Court should hold the government’s prohibition unconstitutional and restore his Second Amendment rights.”

FPC’s brief cites Greenlee’s authoritative scholarship on the issue, a law review article published by the Wyoming Law Review in 2020 entitled “The Historical Justification for Prohibiting Dangerous Persons from Possessing Arms,” available online here.

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. paul I'll call you what I want/1st Amendment

    January 4, 2022 at 2:19 pm

    Here in Cleveland they go the other way. They charge the violent offender with “weapons under disability” so it doesn’t have to be put into the nics system! Just another way to justify gun control by creating the problem you wish to solve.

  2. David A Cole

    January 4, 2022 at 7:14 am

    If they broke the law, they pay the price. Maybe they should take away their voting rights too.

    • Gary Thomas

      January 4, 2022 at 11:16 am

      You have to be an uneducated liberal!

    • Timothy Yorgan

      January 4, 2022 at 2:32 pm

      We, as individuals have the right to protect our life, liberty and property and in this republic we have collectively designated the government to do this for us in the form of law. When the government steps outside of protecting our God given rights and starts determining what those rights are, it becomes an instrument of plunder or tyranny. This is why Article VI of the constitution (the supremacy clause) has made it clear that ALL law, to be legal, must not be repugnant to the supreme law of the land and is null and void if it does, not from the date so branding it, but from its inception. If this were not the case, then legislators may pass a law against spitting on the sidewalk and take away your second amendment rights for societal health reasons…any bells going off? Be careful about from whom you want to remove rights.

    • Ralph

      January 5, 2022 at 8:51 am

      If your statement is the face value of your concern I would ask:
      Isn’t that like taking a Constitutional Right away for having cancer?
      Reading the article – He was found out. He made restitution – which should have been the end of it. Today’s bar to his owning a weapon (Its implied in the article) apparently is based on NEW law – his punishment at the time should be grandfathered.

    • Bad Bill

      January 17, 2022 at 12:49 pm

      If you like a dictatorship that well then I suggest that you move to one. There are dozens to choose from and there are planes leaving every day. The fact is that that law is a Bill Of Attainder which is prohibited in the main body of the Constitution that you seem to despise.

  3. Roger

    January 3, 2022 at 3:46 pm

    The crime you were convicted of or the class it is called, (felon, misdemeanor, etc) has nothing to do with you being prohibited form firearms possession. I worked for 15 yrs. doing background checks for firearms purchases & LTC. One of the federal prohibitors is the maximum prison term you could receive for the conviction. At one time a Drag Racing conviction in PA would prohibit you because the max jail term was either 2 or 3 years.

  4. Bob

    January 3, 2022 at 12:59 pm

    Then why is hunter biden not in jail for purchasing a handgun when he is a drug addict. He lied on the 4473 form so he committed a crime there and should be arrested.

    • Byron

      January 4, 2022 at 11:04 am

      Absolutely!

  5. Soylent pets

    January 3, 2022 at 12:35 pm

    Rights are rights and not privileges. Rights are not given or denied subject to the opinions of someone else. Rights are to be exercised or they do not exist.

  6. Trooper

    January 3, 2022 at 12:29 pm

    Each case MUST be looked into very carefully and evaluated on the person, the reason, and the potential damage that could be done. This case described here was considered FRAUD then we should look carefully at all of the present administration because of the FRAUD that they, as individuals and as a whole that they perpetrated against the AMERICAN PUBLIC. If fraud as described in this article causes such penalties, WHY then haven’t the FRAUDS in office been arrested and have the same penalties been given them?????? WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR CONSTITUTION AND THE RIGHTS THAT ARE SET FORTH?????? Is it the Socialist Communist Elites who are the only ones who have RIGHTS??????

  7. Vhuck

    January 3, 2022 at 11:42 am

    The only AND ONLY reason one should be prohibited from owning a firearm is violent offense with a fire arm .. FPC is heading down a slippery slope by saying only law abiding citizens should be allowed to posses firearms . Considering that the majority of law makers are anti gun and that new laws get passed all the time without consent of the people how long will it be before you are deemed a criminal because of a law you didn’t ask for or vote for ? FPC should really rethink that stance

    • Chris Thayer

      January 3, 2022 at 2:52 pm

      Did you read the article? The brief (and FPC’s support) is NOT about prohibiting the 2A right, but is in fact just the opposite: saying one’s right to self-defense should NOT be blocked *especially* because of a misdemeanor.

  8. Mark

    January 3, 2022 at 10:54 am

    Misdemeanor should not cause the loss of rights. Felons should get their rights back AFTER they have served 100% of what ever the system has determined is the appropriate punishment… however steeling tax dollars should be a felony with the death penalty as the minimum punishment.

    • H.D.

      January 3, 2022 at 11:26 am

      Then almost every politician is a felon

      • Byron

        January 4, 2022 at 11:06 am

        Absolutely, especially the ones who rarely show up to cast votes!

  9. L

    January 3, 2022 at 10:53 am

    Any way the can steal your rights they are hard at work to do

  10. Ruben Alfaro

    January 3, 2022 at 10:29 am

    No he shouldn’t lose his rights,just like a more than 20 year old class E felony should be then end of all your rights. President Trump could’ve used my vote yet he didn’t get.

  11. Paul

    January 3, 2022 at 10:26 am

    Mistake 1. Food stamp fraud is theft. He should have done jail time as should the current crop of SNAP, unemployment and Medicaid fraudsters.

    Mistake 2. Even if he had gone to jail, his non-violent crime happened a long time ago. There clearly should be restitution of his gun ownership rights after let’s say 5 years of good behavior and fines or other financial penalties paid.

  12. ThunderGuy

    January 3, 2022 at 10:24 am

    It’s difficult and generates a lot of red tape to define various levels of “misdemeanor.” That said, someone who breaks the law for personal gain does deserve some form of punishment. It’s hard to know whether someone who lies on a food stamps assistance form would go on to abuse the system in other ways. However, providing a path for redemption seems like a logical and fair aspect of our American system. Let’s face it, we’ve got 11 million people (estimated) to have come to this country without permission, breaking federal laws in the process, and yet a high number of people want to give them a pass and allow them citizenship. Would this disqualify them for gun ownership? Probably not. But at least putting any non-violent law breaker on a period of probation is not unreasonable, though I’m confident stout 2A supporters would disagree. My point is when someone becomes “known” to the system as an offender, giving them time to prove their willingness to adhere to laws seems fair, assuming that system would promptly, effectively, and thoroughly wipe their inability to own firearms at the end of that period. And that’s the problem. Too many glitches in the system already exist, so who knows how long it would take for one’s name to be “cleared?” Also, it might be fair to consider someone who has committed misdemeanors repeatedly a poor consideration as a gun owner. Showing you’re law-abiding is what legal gun ownership is all about.

  13. Eat the rich

    January 3, 2022 at 10:23 am

    F#@k NO.

  14. Timothy Yorgan

    January 3, 2022 at 10:15 am

    There are a lot of unconstitutional laws on the books and removing an inherent constitutional right for disobeying an unconstitutional law is self defeating and insane. This a back door attempt at fundamentally destroying the constitution and shredding the supremacy clause by making it subservient to state and local ordinances. Next you’ll loose your right to self defense by failing to cut your grass.

    • Soylent pets

      January 3, 2022 at 12:35 pm

      Rights are rights and not privileges. Rights are not given or denied subject to the opinions of someone else. Rights are to be exercised or they do not exist.

      • Bad Bill

        January 17, 2022 at 1:48 pm

        You are correct. Also we have to fight for our rights or Big Bro will take them away. Freedom is bitterly hard to win but it can be lost without any effort. Far too many have been indoctrinated by Government Indoctrination Centers – a k a “Public Schools” – into relying on Big Bro for everything.

  15. Pud

    January 3, 2022 at 9:52 am

    NO

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