Non-Violent Misdemeanor Cost a Man His Second Amendment

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Bryan Range committed a crime in 19955 that had nothing to do with his Second Amendment rights, but he lost his right to own a gun anyway. The Third Circuit is reconsidering the case.

He fraudulently obtained $2,458 in food stamps by misrepresenting his income. He has no history of violence, but the crime is punishable by more than a year in prison. When a state classifies a crime as a misdemeanor, that disqualification applies if the maximum penalty exceeds two years. That’s the standard now being contested.

Back in 1995, Bryan Range pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining $2,458 in food stamps by misrepresenting his income. He returned the money, paid a $100 fine and $288 in court costs, and served three years of probation.

Although Range did not realize it, that Pennsylvania misdemeanor conviction also came with a lifelong penalty: He lost his constitutional right to keep and bear arms. His case, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit will hear next month, poses the question of whether that policy, which prohibits gun ownership by millions of Americans with no history of violence, violates the Second Amendment.

Federal law generally makes it a felony to purchase or possess a gun if you have been convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year of incarceration. When a state classifies a crime as a misdemeanor, that disqualification applies if the maximum penalty exceeds two years.

A three-judge panel found that non-violent felons may lose their gun rights.

In a November 16 decision that was vacated last week, a 3rd Circuit panel said that policy nevertheless is “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation”—the constitutional test that the Supreme Court says gun laws must pass. Surveying the history of status-based gun prohibitions from 17th-century England through ratification of the Second Amendment, the panel perceived a pattern of disarming people “who did not respect the law,” whether or not they posed a violent threat, Reason reports.

Reason says that the original law from 1938 that the Supreme Court upheld applied to a specific act of violence.

The case will be heard next month.


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