By Dean Weingarten
Arizona – -(Ammoland.com)- A St. Louis Judge has ruled that Missouri's tough new protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not just a paper tiger.
In the first ruling of its kind, the court ruled that a person cannot be prohibited from the right to keep and bear arms under Missouri statutes, for a non-violent felony.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker ruled that the Missouri law prohibiting felons from possessing guns is unconstitutional as applied in the case of Raymond Robinson, in part because it fails to differentiate between violent and non-violent felons.
The amendment declares the right to keep and bear arms “unalienable” and subjects laws restricting gun rights to “strict scrutiny.”
Dierker limited his decision to the circumstances of Robinson’s situation; it is not binding on other cases. It also has no effect on a federal law prohibiting felons from possession guns.
I have read Judge Dierker's opinion. It is exceptionally well done. The logic is clear and the issues are well defined. Mr. Robinson had been convicted of a felony over 10 years ago, in 2003. The conviction was for a non-violent crime; ironically, for illegal carry of a firearm. As Missouri's shall issue law did not become effective before September of 2003, and it takes some time to process permits, Mr. Robinson could not have obtained a permit to carry the firearm at the time of his conviction.
The Missouri constitution is now clear. Judges are not allowed wiggle room to declare that a right only applies in a few rare circumstances, or that some fuzzy state purpose overrides the right. Here is the amendment that passed last year.
“Section 23. That the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms, ammunition, and accessories typical to the normal function of such arms, in defense of his home, person, family and property, or when lawfully summoned in aid of the civil power, shall not be questioned. The rights guaranteed by this section shall be unalienable. Any restriction on these rights shall be subject to strict scrutiny and the state of Missouri shall be obligated to uphold these rights and shall under no circumstances decline to protect against their infringement. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the general assembly from enacting general laws which limit the rights of convicted violent felons or those adjudicated by a court to be a danger to self or others as result of a mental disorder or mental infirmity.
The sponsor of the legislation is quoted in the St. Louis Today article as saying:
But he insisted that allowing felons to automatically have possession of firearms was not “the intent or legal effect of Amendment 5.”
I suspect that Senator Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, is being precise and truthful. The intent and effect of the amendment does not automatically allow felons to have possession of firearms. It makes a significant differentiation, between violent felons and non-violent felons. This is a crucial distinction that seems lost on the writer of the article in St. Louis Today, Alex Stuckey.
There has long been a creeping movement to make more and more minor crimes into felonies. Carrying a gun, a right protected under the Constitution, is hardly a good reason to take away the constitutional right.
Here is a link to the pdf file of the judges opinion. It is through the St. Louis Today web site, so I do not know how long it will be available. The case number is 1422-CR02936-01, and it is in the twenty second circuit court in St. Louis.
Many people have said that these sort of constitutional amendments do not strengthen the right to keep and bear arms. This case shows that in Missouri, it did just that.
c2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch
About Dean Weingarten;
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.