Court rules that convicted felons have Second Amendment rights

 May 12, 2024

A panel of judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has decided that even convicted felons have Second Amendment firearm rights.

What's more, according to Courthouse News Service, is that the court based its decision on the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Second Amendment case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen. 

In fact, the Ninth Circuit panel insisted that, under Bruen, convicted felons must have Second Amendment rights.

The decision, as one might suspect, has led to some controversy.


The case centers around Steven Duarte, a five-time convicted felon who is also a Los Angeles member of a street gang.

Duarte, most recently, was charged with being a "felon-in-possession." Justia explains:

The case involves Steven Duarte, who was convicted for violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), a law that prohibits anyone previously convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for over a year from possessing a firearm. Duarte, who had five prior non-violent state criminal convictions, was charged and convicted under this law after police saw him discard a handgun from a moving car.

Duarte was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison.

Duarte and his lawyers, then, challenged the ruling on the grounds that this law is unconstitutional - that it violates his Second Amendment rights.

The appeal, most recently, made it to the Ninth Circuit, where it was heard by a three-judge panel, including George W. Bush appointee Carlos Bea and Milan Smith Jr. as well as Donald Trump appointee Lawrence VanDyke.

Conviction overturned

The three-judge panel has now decided to overturn Duarte's conviction. VanDyke and Bea ruled for Duarte, while Smith ruled against him.

As stated, the judges relied on Bruen, which, according to Courthouse News Service, "requires that the government shows that there is a historical tradition that supports the categorical prohibition on defendants such as Steve Duarte possessing a firearm."

Here, the court found that the government failed to do so.

Courthouse News Service continues:

This, according to the judge, the government failed to do because there was no analogous law at the time of the Founding Fathers that someone like Duarte would have been deprived of their right to bear arms. In fact, the judge said, his offenses would have been considered misdemeanors rather than felonies or not even have existed at all in the 18th and 19th centuries.

It appears, however, that this case is not over. Duarte's lawyer has already indicated that they plan to ask the Ninth Circuit to review the decision en banc. If the court agrees, this means that all members of the court will review the case, rather than just a three-judge panel.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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