Friday, August 6, 2010

Violent vs. Non-Violent Felons

U.S. v. Williams, No. 09-3174 (7th Cir. 2010) has an intriguing statement in a case where a convicted felon argued that his Second Amendment rights were violated by a federal law that prohibited convicted felons from being in possession of a firearm.  They use intermediate scrutiny to decide if the felon in possession law is constitutional, and hold that there is a legitimate governmental purpose to disarming a person convicted of previous violent felonies:
To pass constitutional muster under intermediate scrutiny, the government has the burden of demonstrating that its objective is an important one and that its objective is advanced by means substantially related to that objective. Cf. Skoien, 2010 WL 2735747, at *3. We find that the government satisfies its burden. In this case, the government’s stated objective is to keep firearms out of the hands of violent felons, who the government believes are often those most likely to misuse firearms.... [p. 14]
The question might be answered differently for a person convicted of a non-violent felony (such as turning back a car odometer):
And although we recognize that § 922(g)(1) may be subject to an overbreadth challenge at some point because of its disqualification of all felons, including those who are non-violent, that is not the case for Williams.  Even if the government may face a difficult burden of proving § 922(g)(1)’s “strong showing” in future cases, it certainly satisfies its burden in this case, where Williams challenges § 922(g)(1) as it was applied to him.... Williams, as a violent felon, is not the ideal candidate to challenge the constitutionality of § 922(g)(1). [p. 16]
It does seem like an invitation to raise that question with a better defendant.

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