Fifth Circuit Applies New Supreme Court Precedent to Reverse Firearms Conviction
The right for Americans to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right that is protected by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Although the right to bear arms is sacrosanct, there are exceptions and restrictions to gun ownership that have been upheld in the courts. Federal laws have been in effect for decades that prevent domestic violence offenders and respondents in valid protective orders from owning or possessing firearms. A Texas man’s recent challenge to a conviction under this law may result in a complete overhaul of these commonly used ownership restrictions for domestic violence prevention.
The defendant from the recently decided case was found to have firearms in his possession after a search warrant was issued for his residence in early 2021. The defendant had agreed in 2020 to a civil protective order preventing him from contacting or harassing an ex-girlfriend. Federal law prohibits persons subject to such protective orders from owning or possessing firearms. After the search, the defendant was arrested on federal charges and was ultimately convicted of the crimes as charged.
The defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that the federal law prohibiting him from firearm ownership was unconstitutional. Although the defendant’s constitutional arguments initially failed, the federal law on this issue changed when the U.S. Supreme Court decided New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen in 2022. In Bruen, the highest federal court created a new framework for evaluating the constitutional validity of firearms restrictions. Under the Bruen standard, the government had an increased burden in demonstrating the constitutionality of gun regulation statutes.