The Authority of Law statue and the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
The Authority of Law statue and the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. / Stephen Gutowski

Supreme Court Tells Lower Court to Reconsider Massachusetts Misdemeanor Handgun Ban

The Supreme Court has identified a fifth case that needs to be reheard in light of its recent landmark gun ruling.

This one comes out of Massachusetts and challenges a state law barring those convicted of certain misdemeanors, even non-violent ones, from ever buying guns again. In Morin v. Lyver, a First Circuit panel used a two-step test to find the state’s refusal to issue either gun carry or pistol purchase permits to people convicted of gun-related misdemeanors was consistent with the Second Amendment. On Monday, the Supreme Court granted an appeal of the decision, vacated the previous ruling, and sent it back down to be reheard under its new standard for gun cases.

“The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted,” the court said in its order list. “The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit for further consideration in light of New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen.”

The remanding signals a new area of Second Amendment litigation the Court wants to see developed under its new Bruen standard. The Court had already sent cases related to AR-15 bans, magazine limits, and open carry permitting back down to lower courts. Now it seems the Supreme Court also wants to explore lifetime gun bans, especially for non-violent minor offenses.

Dr. Alfred Morin was convicted of a non-violent misdemeanor for carrying a gun without a permit while on a trip to Washington, D.C. in 2004, according to court documents. He was licensed to carry in Massachusetts but was unaware his permit was not valid in D.C. due to the city’s total ban on gun carrying, which was later struck down as unconstitutional. He was arrested after attempting to abide by a no-gun sign at the Ameican Museum of Natural History and asking to check the pistol he was carrying with security. He pled guilty to carrying a gun without a license and received a 60-day sentence but was never required to serve jail time.

However, because the conviction was gun-related and Dr. Morin was sentenced to jail time, Massachusetts law bars him from ever obtaining a permit to purchase a handgun. The state also refused to renew his gun-carry permit after the misdemeanor conviction. The state did grant him a firearm identification card in 2018, which allows him to buy certain shotguns and rifles. But he has not been allowed to buy any pistols since the ordeal began.

That’s why he filed suit against the state, arguing its misdemeanor ban violates the Second Amendment. Judge Timothy Hillman of the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts found the prohibition was constitutional under the old two-step test “because individuals convicted of weapons-related offenses punishable by a term of imprisonment are not, as a class, law-abiding and responsible citizens, Sections 131 and 131A do not implicate the core of the right protected by the Second Amendment.” He further determined the ban was within “Massachusetts’ interest in preventing crime and promoting public safety and are reasonably tailored to meet these needs, the provisions pass constitutional muster.”

A three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Hillman and denied Dr. Morin’s appeal. Now the Supreme Court wants them to reconsider the case with a focus on whether the law is compatable with the text of the Second Amdnement or the early-American tradition of firearms regulation. If not, the law would have to be struck down under the Bruen standard.

The Supreme Court also considered two other gun-related cases on Monday. The court decided not to hear Aposhian v. Garland and GOA v. Garland, which challenged the Trump Administration’s reclassification and ban on bump stocks. The decision leaves the lower court rulings upholding the ban in place.

Gun Owners of America (GOA), a plaintiff in one of the cases, said the decision to deny the case was “dangerous.”

“This decision sets a horrible and dangerous precedent, one that will allow the ATF to further arbitrarily regulate various firearms,” the gun-rights group said in a statement. “This very same precedent is already being abused by Joe Biden to ban millions of lawfully purchased pistols even without an ACT of Congress!”

The Court did not take up any new gun-related cases for a hearing on the merits. The four other cases it granted, vacated, and remanded are still working their way through the lower courts. It will likely be several months or even years before final rulings are reached in those cases.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019


Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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