In a recent decision, the federal appeals court in Philadelphia upheld the right of a Pennsylvania man, Bryan Range, who was convicted of a nonviolent crime, to retain his 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.
In 1995, Range was found guilty of making a false statement to obtain food stamps during severe financial hardship.
Following his conviction, he completed a three-year probation term, paid restitution of $2,500, and maintained a clean record, except for minor traffic infractions and fishing without a license.
Although his offense was classified as a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of five years in jail, technically rendering him ineligible to possess firearms under federal law, the court ruled that his right to own guns or ammunition could not be stripped away.
Under federal law, it is considered illegal for an individual who has been convicted of a crime carrying a potential prison sentence of more than one year to possess firearms or ammunition.
Range’s challenge was initially denied by a federal judge in 2021.
However, while his case was under appeal, the US Supreme Court issued a significant ruling on the Second Amendment, establishing a two-step test to evaluate the constitutionality of restrictions imposed on firearms.
In an 11-4 decision, most judges concluded that, despite Range’s criminal record, he falls within the category of “the people” protected by the 2nd Amendment.
As a result, the burden was placed on the US government to demonstrate that disarming Range aligns with the “historical tradition” dating back to the nation’s founding.
In the majority opinion, Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman emphasized that the government’s efforts to draw parallels between early laws and Range’s situation were insufficient.
“The founders of the United States explicitly disarmed these groups, perceiving them as disloyal to the sovereign.
The designation of felons is a surrogate for disloyalty and disrespect towards the sovereign and its laws,” stated the appointee nominated by Obama.
“This classification is particularly relevant in this case, where Range’s felony involved theft from the government, an offense that directly undermines the sovereign.”
Schwartz also cautioned that despite her colleagues’ assertion that their opinion is limited in scope, the analytical framework they employed to reach their conclusion could potentially render the majority, if not all, felony firearm bans unconstitutional.
The ruling lacks limitations and dismisses all historical evidence supporting the disarmament of felons.
Consequently, the majority’s analytical framework leads to only one outcome: there will be little to no restriction on individuals with felony or felony-equivalent convictions from possessing firearms.