Ninth Circuit Ruling Reaffirms Second Amendment Rights for Nonviolent Felons
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Ninth Circuit Ruling Reaffirms Second Amendment Rights for Nonviolent Felons

Ninth Circuit Ruling Reaffirms Second Amendment Rights for Nonviolent Felons | Credits: iStock

United States: In an act lauding the constitutional liberties of individuals, a panel of adjudicators from the Ninth Circuit decreed Thursday that a comprehensive prohibition on ex-convicts possessing firearms infringes upon their Second Amendment rights, particularly for nonviolent wrongdoers who have served their sentences.

The groundbreaking decree, rendered in a split verdict, annulled the firearm possession condemnation of a Los Angeles inhabitant associated with a street gang. Despite a history of previous felony convictions, the person, Steve Duarte, received relief from a 51-month federal prison term for being a “felon-in-possession.”

Penned by US Circuit Judge Carlos Bea, designated by President George W. Bush, the majority stance referenced the 2022 Supreme Court ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen. This decree highlighted the need for the government to establish a historical precedent supporting the sweeping prohibition of firearm possession for individuals like Duarte, according to reports. 

Judge Bea stressed that the government’s inability to establish such a historical norm was decisive in the court’s ruling. He argued that during the era of the Founding Fathers, transgressions akin to Duarte’s would have been considered minor infractions or might not have existed at all. The judge underscored the intrinsic nature of the Second Amendment, asserting that its explicit mention in the Constitution precludes subjective assessments regarding which citizens merit its safeguards.

US Circuit Judge Lawrence VanDyke, a nominee of President Donald Trump, concurred with Judge Bea’s rationale, aligning himself with the majority opinion.

Nevertheless, dissenting from the majority, US District Judge Milan Smith Jr., also appointed by President George W. Bush, contended that the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision did not nullify existing Ninth Circuit precedents. He emphasized the principle that the Second Amendment right pertains exclusively to law-abiding citizens.

Legal scholars posit that Thursday’s ruling signals a significant deviation from prevailing Ninth Circuit legal doctrines. Eugene Volokh, a legal scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles, noted similarities between this ruling and a previous decision by the Third Circuit in Range v. Attorney General.

The majority stance did not foreclose the possibility of firearm constraints for felons convicted of violent crimes, affirming that certain transgressions historically categorized as severe could warrant permanent deprivation of Second Amendment privileges, as outlined by certain reports.

While the US attorney’s office in Los Angeles refrained from offering commentary on the ruling, Volokh anticipates that federal prosecutors may pursue an en banc review from the Ninth Circuit. This review, influenced by the impending Supreme Court ruling in Rahimi v. [redacted], will provide additional clarity on the extent of Second Amendment protections.

Essentially, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling reaffirmed the fundamental principle that the right to possess arms extends to all law-abiding citizens, irrespective of past indiscretions, and establishes a precedent for upholding Second Amendment freedoms in the face of governmental encroachment.