Federal Appeals Court Limits When Individuals’ Gun Rights Can Be Stripped

Revolvers / AP

A federal appeals court limited the government’s ability to strip a person’s gun rights in relation to certain misdemeanor crimes in a ruling on Wednesday.

The case involved two Pennsylvania men who had been convicted of misdemeanors in the 1990s and were subsequently prohibited from owning firearms. Julio Suarez was convicted of carrying an unlicensed firearm in 1990 and received a six-month suspended sentence and a $500 fine. Daniel Binderup was convicted of corrupting a minor for a relationship he had with a 17-year-old girl in 1996 and received three years of probation and a $300 fine.

Neither received any jail time.

The U.S. Third District Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday in the combined cases of Binderup v. the U.S. Attorney General and Suarez v. the U.S. Attorney General that it is unconstitutional to permanently bar the plaintiffs from owning firearms since they were convicted of relatively minor offenses and the government failed to prove they represent a hightened risk to society.

"Where the Second Amendment’s guarantees apply, as they do for Binderup and Suarez, ‘certain policy choices’ are ‘necessarily’ taken ‘off the table.’ Forever prohibiting them from possessing any firearm is one of those policy choices," the court said in its ruling.

The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), which filed the suit, said the ruling was a victory for gun rights.

"Today’s victory confirms that the government can’t simply disarm anyone it wishes," SAF attorney Alan Gura said. "At an absolute minimum, people convicted of non-serious crimes, who pose no threat to anyone, retain their fundamental rights. That this is even controversial is a matter of some concern."

"In an era where government officials want to disqualify as many people as possible from gun ownership, this ruling is monumental. This case will lead to the restoration of people’s civil and constitutional right to own a firearm that is long overdue," SAF founder Alan Gottlieb added.