Biden Seeks Help From SCOTUS in Banning Guns for Felons
Is there anything more controversial in the United States right now than guns? Some argue that citizens have an unconditional right to "bear arms" under the Second Amendment of the Constitution. Others argue that it's more complicated than that, especially when it comes to subjects related to children. Some argue that more laws and regulations are required, while others believe that the current laws go too far.
Wherever you land on the political spectrum, guns are a fundamental part of American life. But who has the right to own them?
SCOTUS Expands Gun Rights
Despite only serving one term, President Donald Trump appointed a modern record of three Supreme Court justices to the bench. With these three additions, there is an undeniable conservative majority on the bench.
With that majority, SCOTUS began to find in favor of more conservative causes in recent groundbreaking decisions: Abortion, Religion, and Regulations. All decisions that sided with the conservative argument.
Another major case that SCOTUS sided with conservatives on was gun rights. In 2022, SCOTUS overturned a New York law that restricted gun owners from carrying guns outside the home. Writing for the majority in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, Justice Clarence Thomas ruled that the law, that required "proper cause" to carry a gun in public, violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Thomas opined that the law unreasonably restricted law-abiding citizens from exercising their Second Amendment rights.
Criminal Claims Right to Guns
When reading Justice Thomas's opinion, it is clear that he is referring to just law-abiding citizens, right? Well if you live in Pennsylvania, it may not matter.
In 1995, Bryan Range pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to obtain food stamps. At the time, Range could not afford to feed his family of five on his salary, so he understated his income to receive food stamps. While he could have faced five years imprisonment for the misdemeanor, he only had to pay restitution and fees and was on probation.
However, this misdemeanor on his record meant that pursuant to federal law, he was ineligible to obtain a firearm.
In 2020, Range filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that the law unreasonably prohibited his rights under the Second Amendment. In 2021, the trial court ruled against him.
However, following SCOTUS's decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Third Circuit reversed and remanded. In its decision, the Third Circuit found that, at least as it related to Range, the law unconstitutionally violated his Second Amendment rights.
Biden Demands Assistance from SCOTUS
The Third Circuit's ruling has opened the doors to more people with a criminal record seeking gun ownership in similar cases. In an attempt to narrow the ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Biden Administration has filed a writ of certiorari with SCOTUS to overturn the Third Circuit decision.
It is not known yet whether SCOTUS will take the case. Even if it does, there is no guarantee that SCOTUS will side with the Biden Administration.
However SCOTUS decides, it will be contested from both sides of the political aisle. When it comes to guns, the argument usually comes down to too many rules versus not enough. This time though, the question is bigger than that: who are these rules meant to protect?
- SCOTUS Overturns New York Gun Law (FindLaw's Federal Courts)
- A Summary of the Second Amendment (FindLaw's U.S. Constitution)
- Gun Control Laws by State (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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