Mac Pilgrim runs across some of the most interesting information. This week, he texted me a column from a newspaper in Kansas. The issue in the column is not well known today; but I expect it will receive widespread attention soon.
Most people know that a convicted felon in Georgia cannot possess a firearm. The underlying felony does not matter. A 1st Degree Forgery conviction prevents gun ownership in the same manner that a murder conviction does. This is pursuant to Georgia state law.
But, it is not well known that a person, who is convicted of a misdemeanor involving any degree of family violence, cannot possess a firearm either. This is pursuant to federal law.
Well, recently the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a Kansas man convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery under a city ordinance can legally carry a gun.
The ruling came in the case of Alexander Pauler, a Wichita man who was accused of violating the federal law that prohibits someone from owning a gun if they’ve been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence “under federal, state or tribal law.” (The terms, “city ordinance or municipal ordinance” do not appear in the text of the statute.)
Prosecutors said Pauler couldn’t have a gun because he had been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence under a Wichita ordinance. But a three-judge panel of the Denver-based appeals court unanimously found that the federal gun law doesn’t apply when the underlying domestic abuse violation is under a municipal ordinance.
This is the first time that a federal appeals court has directly addressed that argument.
Rob Valente, chief officer of government affairs at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, complained the 10th Circuit’s ruling “undermines the work that has been done to close loopholes in federal firearm laws and protect victims of domestic violence and dating abuse.”
He did not explain what he meant by “loopholes.”
Prosecutors are evaluating the court’s ruling and no decision has been made on whether they will appeal to the full 10th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court, said Jim Cross, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas.
But, Pauler’s case is already affecting other criminal prosecutions. For example, attorneys for Curtis Allen, one of three people facing federal charges in western Kansas, recently filed a motion seeking dismissal of a count related to possession of firearms after having previously been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic abuse conviction in a municipal court.
This decision will also impact people who try to buy a gun from a seller licensed by the U.S. government and are denied because a background check turns up of a municipal misdemeanor domestic violence conviction.
An immediate question in Georgia is how will probate judges across the state a treat this federal case when deciding to issue concealed permits; particularly to people from other states where these municipal ordinances are common.
In Georgia, this decision will have little to no effect on pending cases. The vast majority of cases involving family violence are charged under state law and prosecuted in state or superior courts. There are very few instances when a person is facing losing his or her gun rights in a municipal court.
But, Georgia is a state that cherishes the civil rights protections under the 2nd Amendment. Based on this ruling, there are several state and local laws that could be passed to protect people who have had only one instance of family violence.
The stripping away of the right to possess a firearm is a very serious consequence to most Georgians. Just like the man who is accused of 1st Degree Forgery, the man who gets into an argument with his wife and breaks her clock should not be put into jeopardy of losing his guns.
(Men and women who demonstrate repeated violent behavior in a home, or anywhere else, should be treated much differently.)
Pauler’s attorney concluded succinctly when he told the Associated Press the ruling comes as a victory for some who have lost their gun rights. “It will really open up a class of individuals who are now able to lawfully exercise their Second Amendment rights.”