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Federal Appeals Court: People Convicted Of Non-Violent Crimes Can Still Own Guns

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court issued a verdict stating that the U.S. government does not possess the authority to prohibit individuals with non-violent crime convictions from owning guns. This recent decision from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, headquartered in Philadelphia, is yet another setback for the push for more stringent gun control measures. This follows a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that extended gun rights across the nation.

This resolution is a consequence of a legal battle in 2020 initiated by Bryan Range, a resident of Pennsylvania. Having pleaded guilty to a charge of welfare fraud, federal law mandated that he was no longer allowed to own a firearm. Range contended that this restriction was an infringement of his Second Amendment rights as established by the U.S. Constitution.

Peter Patterson, Range’s attorney, expressed satisfaction at the result of the case, acknowledging the 3rd Circuit court for upholding their client’s rights by correctly interpreting the Supreme Court’s verdict. No comment was received from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the federal agency responsible for enforcing gun laws.

In 1995, Range admitted to manipulating the welfare system in Pennsylvania to obtain food stamps worth $2,458, a misdemeanor that could result in a maximum sentence of five years. His sentence was three years of probation.

The general rule in federal criminal law is that those convicted of offenses carrying a potential prison sentence of more than one year are forbidden from possessing firearms. These offenses are typically felonies, but some state misdemeanors are also included, as was the case with Range.

Range’s initial appeal was dismissed by a federal judge in 2021. However, a year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the Second Amendment secures individuals’ right to carry guns for self-defense in public places. They also stated that any limitations on this right should align with the country’s historical tradition of gun control.

Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman, writing for the majority, expressed on Tuesday that the government had not been successful in identifying any laws from the time of the nation’s founding that demonstrated a tradition of disarming non-violent criminals. Four judges, however, did not agree with this decision.

“Where, as here, the legislature has made a reasonable and considered judgment to disarm those who show disrespect for the law, it is not the place of unelected judges to substitute that judgment with their own,” wrote Circuit Judge Cheryl Ann Krause.

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