The Supreme Court's landmark decision last year on the right to carry guns outside the home for self-defense purposes didn't invalidate the longstanding gun law that bars felons from owning firearms, according to an opinion written by a circuit court judge.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit wrote that the Supreme Court decision on the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen "created a new test for determining the scope of the Second Amendment," but it didn't "appear to question the constitutionality of longstanding prohibitions on possession of firearms by convicted felons."
Judge Bacharach, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, joined the majority decision but said in a separate opinion that he believes the Supreme Court should provide a clearer standard on whether felons have the right to possess a firearm. In the opinion, he suggested that the high court may overturn that gun ban, adding that “even if it were possible for the Supreme Court to implicitly abrogate our precedent, the court didn’t do so in Bruen.”
The case was brought by a woman, Melynda Vincent, who had filed a lawsuit arguing that it was unconstitutional to bar her—a felon convicted of a nonviolent offense—from carrying a firearm under the 1961 federal law, according to the ruling. The 10th Circuit Court ultimately ruled that Ms. Vincent doesn't have the legal right to own a gun under last year's Bruen decision and other previous Second Amendment-related rulings.
“Bruen apparently approved the constitutionality of regulations requiring criminal background checks before applicants could get gun permits,” the court wrote. “In Bruen, the Court struck down state regulations that had required the showing of a special need before someone could get a license to carry a gun.”
According to the court, “six of the nine justices pointed out that Bruen was not casting any doubt on" a previous ruling, the District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the court "appeared to recognize the constitutionality of longstanding prohibitions on possession of firearms by convicted felons."
“In preserving ‘shall-issue’ regimes and related background checks, the court arguably implied that it was constitutional to deny firearm licenses to individuals with felony convictions,” the judge continued. “Given the six Justices’ reaffirmation of the Heller language and the court’s apparent approval of ‘shall-issue’ regimes and related background checks, we conclude that Bruen did not indisputably and pellucidly abrogate our precedential opinion."
Under the Bruen standard, according to the judge, “when the Second Amendment’s plain text covers an individual’s conduct, the Constitution presumptively protects that conduct." He added, "The government must then justify its regulation by demonstrating that it is consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”
“My client has made a remarkable transformation,” her attorney, Sam Meziani, argued. “Nothing in her record indicates she would be violent. Instead, her record suggests she would be a responsible gun owner.”
Her attorneys further stipulated that under the Bruen decision, the government can't justify any ban on firearms without a valid historical precedent.
“The historical analysis that Bruen calls for has never been applied for this situation,” Mr. Meziani wrote. “Bruen set forth a test and that’s the test that needs to govern this case.”
In response to her arguments, Department of Justice lawyer Kevin Soter wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld laws that ban felons from having guns and the recent Supreme Court ruling doesn't change that.
“This court read the statement that the court’s decision was not casting doubt on long-standing felony prohibitions for firearms,” Mr. Soter said, according to the Courthouse News Service.
Judges Joel Carson and Paul Kelly Jr. joined Judge Bacharach in the majority opinion.