Friday, October 14, 2022

Bruen Bearing More Fruit

I have no enthusiasm for the defendant, a convicted felon whose possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number.  U.S. v. Price (S.D.W.V. 2022) (no link yet) considered the question of "whether 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), which prohibits felons from possessing firearms, and 18 U.S.C. § 922(k), which prohibits possession of a firearm with an altered, obliterated, or removed serial number, are constitutional."

The decision upheld the constitutionality of the ex-felon firearm disability but observed that the burden of proof that a law was constitutional falls on the government.  Was the prohibited conduct prohibited in 1791?  The judge observed that firearms were not serialized in 1791 now was there any requirement for this, nor any law prohibiting possession of an unserialized weapon, or prohibiting obliteration of a serial number.

Requiring manufacturers to serial number firearms is certainly within authority to regulate commerce and requiring dealers to only trade in serial numbered arms, ditto.  Or if you wanted to transfer a gun whose serial number has been obliterated, but the hypothetical the judge used was an owner leaving a gun to an heir who wants to keep it as a memorial.

Clearly guns without serial numbers represent a potential criminal problem for all the criminals who leave at the scene of a crime guns registered to them or lawfully transferred to them.  This is obviously rare.  The judge here clearly distinguished several different types of relationships.


  1. I disagree that serialization aids law enforcement. When the ATF runs a trace, it leads (eventually) to the last legal owner.... From the manufacturer, to the distributer, to the gunshop (assuming this is post GCA'68), then to the first legal owner.

    A private sale following that? A stolen weapon? The trace ends. It's a pointless exercise.

  2. This assumes private sale is lawful. At a minimum, it may catch the strawman purchaser or unlawful reseller.

  3. I knew a woman who was a public defender for juvenile felonies. she said that the cases that hold in favor of constitutional protections generally have unappetizing Defendants. This was the case with Miranda v Arizona and Gideon v Wainwright

  4. Even if the weapon is stolen, its history up to that point could be very useful, in terms of identifying which of the possible suspects may have had it later.

  5. I'd be more willing to share your lack of enthusiasm for the defendant, a convicted felon if I didn't know that the the government was charging and convicting people of felonies for thing like possessing a slingshot, having a magazine holding more than some arbitrary number of rounds, shipping lobsters in a cardboard box, etc.
    My opinion about felons and firearms is - if a prisoner cannot be trusted with firearm possession, then that prisoner should not be eligible for parole.