Federal Appeals Court Upholds Non-Violent Felon's Second Amendment Rights
On June 6, the federal Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld the Second Amendment rights of Bryan Range, who had been convicted in the Lancaster County Court Common Pleas of making a false statement to obtain food stamps. This crime was punishable by imprisonment of up to five years. That fact disqualified Range from possessing firearms under the federal “felon-in-possession” law. That would have remained the result if not for the decision last year of the U.S. Supreme Court in New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass'n, Inc. v. Bruen.
Before Bruen, the Third Circuit Court Appeals, as well as a number of other Circuit Courts, would have judged Range’s eligibility to possess firearms according to a two-part test. The Supreme Court found that to be “one step too many.”
The Supreme Court concluded that when the Second Amendment's plain text covers an individual's conduct, the Constitution presumptively protects that conduct, and that "[o]nly if a firearm regulation is consistent with this Nation's historical tradition may a court conclude that the individual's conduct falls outside the Second Amendment's 'unqualified command.'"
Applying Bruen, the court in Range had to decide whether the text of the Second Amendment applies to a person and his proposed conduct, and if so, the government must prove that its firearms regulation is part of the historical tradition that sets the outer bounds of the right to keep and bear arms. The court concluded that Range was part of “the people,” regardless of his conviction. The court then concluded that the Second Amendment protects Range’s possession of a firearm to hunt and a firearm to protect himself.
The burden then shifted to the government to show that the federal gun control statute, as applied to Range, "is part of the historical tradition that delimits the outer bounds of the right to keep and bear arms.” The court held that it is not, and remanded the case to the District Court so the Court could enter a declaratory judgment in favor of Range, and enjoin enforcement of the federal gun control act against him.