Supreme Court Upholds Reform in 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act

Supreme Court Upholds Reform in 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act
Supreme Court Upholds Reform in 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act

U.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- In 1938, Congress, for the first time, created categories of people who could not legally possess firearms under federal law. In 1968, those categories were expanded. In 1986, under pressure from gun owners and the National Rifle Association, the law was reformed, so a person had to know they were in violation in order to be prosecuted. On 23 June 2019, the Supreme Court upheld the reform in the 1986 law.

Prosecution normally requires a person to know they are committing a crime, or that they are doing something wrong. From the decision:

As this Court has explained, the understanding that an injury is criminal only if inflicted knowingly “is as universal and persistent in mature systems of law as belief in freedom of the human will and a consequent ability and duty of the normal individual to choose between good and evil.”

The phrase “ignorance of the law is no excuse” does not refer to acts where an ordinary person would believe they were engaged in innocent conduct. The phrase means a person does not have to be a legal scholar to break the law knowingly. People are expected to research the law if they are knowingly acting in areas that could reasonably be expected to be constrained by law.  It has been perverted to mean a person can be convicted of crimes they committed without criminal or wrongful intent.  There are few such cases; they are the exception, not the rule. They more commonly apply where penalties are much lower than a felony conviction and ten years in prison, such as exists in the firearms law.

In this particular case, whether this defendant knew he was a prohibited possessor was irrelevant to the Supreme Court opinion. The point the Court addressed was: In the jury instructions, the judge held it was not necessary for the defendant to know he was a prohibited possessor.

The Supreme Court held that a prohibited possessor must know their status in order to be prosecuted. Because the jurors decide whether a person is guilty, they must decide if the person knew they were a prohibited possessor. From supremecourt.gov:

Held: In a prosecution under §922(g) and §924(a)(2), the Government must prove both that the defendant knew he possessed a firearm and that he knew he belonged to the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a firearm. Pp. 3–12.(a) Whether a criminal statute requires the Government to prove that the defendant acted knowingly is a question of congressional intent. This inquiry starts from a longstanding presumption that Congress intends to require a defendant to possess a culpable mental state regarding “each of the statutory elements that criminalize otherwise innocent conduct,” United States v. X-Citement Video, Inc., 513 U. S. 64, 72, normally characterized as a presumption in favor of “scienter.” There is no convincing reason to depart from this presumption here.

Possession of firearms is presumptively lawful. Possession is unlawful only in specific, particular; circumstances passed into law. The prosecutorial requirement for a person to know they committed a crime of unlawful possession of firearms is particularly important given the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

When a person who lawfully possessed a firearm is made into a felon by a change in law or interpretation of the statute, it would be an abomination to the rule of the law if they could be convicted without knowing their status had changed. There are many people who fall into this category.

People who pled guilty to misdemeanor convictions for various charges, resulting from something as simple as a domestic argument, became prohibited possessors when those with “domestic violence convictions” were added to the list of prohibited possessors. The charges of many were resolved decades before the law was changed. Numerous people were transformed into prohibited possessors without their knowledge.

Many people with misdemeanor convictions were and are transformed into prohibited possessors by law, when the sentences for those crimes were changed to longer terms, making them felonies under the federal definition of a felony.

Many people presumed they pled to a misdemeanor conviction because of a low penalty, when in fact, it was a felony conviction.

The Supreme Court decision cited the possibility of a person who was brought to the United States as a small child, who did not know they were in the United States illegally.  It would be unjust to prosecute such a case because the person did not know they were breaking the law by possessing a firearm.

Prosecution of individuals in any of these circumstances is rare. This is one of the reasons most people denied during  FBI National Instant background Checks (NICS) are never prosecuted. Many had no idea they were a prohibited possessor until they applied to purchase a gun from a federal dealer. From SCOTUSblog:

Now that the court has decided that knowledge of status is required for a conviction under Section 922(g), prosecutors must think about what kinds of tangible evidence can be used to show that state of mind, and those looking to challenge their convictions must scour their records to find some evidence casting doubt on the existence of such knowledge. These tasks are complicated greatly by the fact that there are nine different status categories. While reminding prosecutors that they may prove state of mind through circumstantial evidence, the majority refused to get too specific, saying, “We express no view … about what precisely the Government must prove to establish a defendant’s knowledge of status in respect to other Section 922(g) provisions not at issue here.”  

For decades, those who demand an unarmed population have worked to delegitimize and demonize possession of firearms. They have worked hard to portray the exercise of an enumerated Constitutional right as abnormal, dysfunctional, and immoral. This Supreme Court decision does much to confirm the obvious in most of the United States: Ownership of firearms is a normal, positive, and useful condition. Mere possession of a firearm is *not* a reason for suspicion of criminal activity.

A person in possession of a firearm could not be prosecuted for mere possession unless they had reason to believe they were not allowed to possess a firearm.


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.

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jack mac
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jack mac

We now have by law a prohibited person de facto underclass. These are free citizens denied rights not denied to other citizens yet. Our nation was founded to prevent governments from denying rights from people. It looks like we changed our minds.

Matt
Guest
Matt

the vast majority of people convicted of domestic violence are never told that they will lose their gun rights. So does this mean that they can challenge they’re prohibited person status? shouldn’t courts be required to tell people by pleading guilty they are losing their right to own a firearm for life?

Maria Carroll
Guest
Maria Carroll

Hello, I am trying to get ahold of Dean Weingarten. Do you have contact information for him? Not gun-related.

Kilroy
Guest
Kilroy

Unfortunately, many people today are considered “Prohibited Persons” and the NRA sat and watched it happen. No one was more disheartened than I upon hearing about the senseless death of Chris Kyle. Yet, I surely believe that if he could speak from the grave he would be in total opposition to someone losing their 2nd amendment rights due to an illness that is NOT INCURABLE. Hundreds of thousands of veteran’s with even the slightest occurrence of PTSD have lost their gun rights, many of which went on to be successfully treated, while very few to none knew that they would… Read more »

Gregory Romeu
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Gregory Romeu

Extremely well-worded commentary you hit everything right on the head! It’s time for, We the People to put on our big boy pants and start pushing back against these Federal encroachments on our rights, freedoms, Liberty and sovereignty four words that are not negotiable under any circumstances. Speaking of which, certain persons with Backbone in Presidio County Texas will be presenting to the County Commissioner’s Court at 9 a.m. on 10th July, a resolution to secure the second amendment rights in the county of Presidio and to block any and all federal or other government agency encroachments on our right… Read more »

Wild Bill
Member
Wild Bill

@Greg Romeu, Well, here it is the 10th of July, so what happened in the Presidio County Commissiner’s court, today?

Christopher Rose
Guest
Christopher Rose

Yes I am in complete agreement with you all & would like to say It is not moral nor normoral to name & include these 2 differences as the same crime, as for that is immoral and would be deceitful to all people who all exist within good & evil. one crime or violation such as misdemeanor and a completely & entirely different crime such as a felony are not & cannot be & should not be classified together as the same, That is evil & decitif. Also furthermore to place and post blame on firearms & not on the… Read more »

Patriot
Guest
Patriot

There are now over 2 million city, township, county, state and federal laws on the books, with at least 100 more added everyday. According to an article, everybody breaks some of these 2 million laws every day just going to work or going grocery shopping! At that raye, everyone is a criminal and wouldn’t be allowed to purchase any firearm. These politicians love to pass as many restrictive laws as they can. People come here from other countries can’t believe all the laws here. Have all these laws made America any better? Or have they made ‘America, land of the… Read more »

Walt
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Walt

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”. I don’t see anything about “except for” in this. How does the Court, Congress and BATF get involved again? Our Constitution was written in plain English so that any citizen could understand and abide – no lawyer needed. I guess it was not sufficient.

freewill
Guest
freewill

Its the bill of rights, I gives no authority what-so-ever to government..Regulate means adjust to a particular standard, rate, amount, degree etc.They intended the people to be well armed…the word “people” is in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 10th amendment, inalienable rights are non negotiable ..case closed!

jay
Guest
jay

but to read this this touchs on more then just gun laws but also hidden laws that is used agest the people,
it touchs on lot probems we have not just guns, and atf this clearly says atf has no power to change or make gun control laws, that no brach of goverment dose leaves to ask dose the control of gun surpressers fall under atf now that it been rule that it is peoples right to own

24and7
Guest
24and7

First of all of this case, like many others the Supreme Court has ruled lately, is a disgrace.. the Supreme Court ruled in favor of an illegal immigrant, in this case, who knew good and damned well he could not possess a firearm.. Another case were non-citizens are being excluded from laws in this nation.. Furthermore, ignorance of federal laws should be an excuse for everyone.. Why do you ask?.. Take a look at how thick the criminal code gun laws is the ATF enforces.. 100% of gun owners violate at least ONE OR TWO of those laws frequently, if… Read more »

John
Guest
John

Indeed, federal and State laws, and do not forget regulations, which carry the force of law. Every day, an unsuspecting citizenry are guilty of some violation, subject to prosecution, dreamed up by public servants, elected and unelected! With respect to the ATF, amazing how a small department, which originated under the IRS, tasked to process “tax” stamps under the NFA Act, has mushroomed into this all powerful agency. This agency which can determine a piece of plastic a machine gun (when elected officials would not), making thousands of law abiding citizens criminals, after a decade of their own published opinions… Read more »

Oldmarine
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Oldmarine

You know really that all laws must pass the Supreme court decision of 1803 which said ” That any law repugnant to the Constitution is Null and Void” . This never gets adjudicated for some reason beyond me. A good or even poor lawyer using this in any ant-Constitutional court case should win because then the Judge can be held responsible to the same 1803 decision. The other thing that the people can hold politicians to the laws of the State and Federal, on their Oaths of Office. Violation of their Oaths is a Felony Crime, again both Federal and… Read more »

Oldmarine
Guest
Oldmarine

By the way any Government Department (ATF and others) is partially a criminal organization under the 2nd amendment. There are others in the same situation, its just that people let these departments get away with it. The job of the Supreme court to make sure that the constitution is protected and supported and leave the other laws to the other courts. If the Supreme Court fails in its duty then it is incompetent and acting criminally. It is totally up to the people to insure that they do their job. Any Gun Law is UN-Constitutional under the 2nd A. and… Read more »

Michael Stilinovich
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Michael Stilinovich

Re: 24and7

And another thing.

I’m truly thankful for your service.

M.A. Stilinovich

Michael Stilinovich
Guest
Michael Stilinovich

My thoughts are to abolish 99% of the laws that we now have and then we can discuss whether or not we should start a meaningful debate as to the elimination of a few more.
I’m also waiting for a politician to run on the platform of repealing laws instead of creating them. I never understood the philosophy of our current political climate when all party’s involved run on the presumption of passing new laws which in turn is eroding the few rights and liberties we have left. It’s not like us here in California can squander another inch.

jay
Guest
jay

i would agree that atf is out dated and nothing that fbi cant handle or states to regalate, i think u would agree that it is people right to own miltatery grade guns with out the interfearace of atf, and now door is open what dose people do,

bRUCE BOYER
Guest
bRUCE BOYER

Note that it was, yes the NRA pushing to include the language to create all the Prohibiteds.. elitism. Not liberty,
A right is a right; the NRA is a ok WITH PROHIBITEDS AND rED fLAGS.

Guesty McGuesterson
Guest
Guesty McGuesterson

Um, the NFA was enacted by Congress in 1934, not 1938. Such a glaring error in the very first sentence of this article shows the lack of proofreading, and the rush to publish.

Brasstard
Guest
Brasstard

The fact is you are mistaken to think the only gun control was the 1934 NFA there were others including the 1938 FFA and its not the only one. You own a computer with internet access, use it!!

Heed the Call-up
Member
Heed the Call-up

Guesty, yes, the NFA was passed in 1934; however, as Brasstard pointed out, that was not the only firearm-related acts ever passed, and it was the 1938 law that created the classes of prohibited persons. Also in 1939, the Supreme Court ruled that, their words not mine, since a “sawed-off” shotgun (aka short-barreled shotgun) served no military purpose, it was not covered by the 2A. They stated then that the 2A protected firearms that have a military purpose. Fast-forward about 50 years or so, in numerous cases, and we have the SCOTUS stating that only firearms in “common use” are… Read more »

Shogun
Guest
Shogun

Ok, now unrestrict the right of citizens to bear arms. Make sure all states follow this constitutional truth.

Biatec
Guest
Biatec

Yeah I’m sick of it. Background checks, nfa, gun control act, 86 machiine gun ban are all violations of civil rights.

Wild Bill
Guest
Wild Bill

@Biatec, You could be a Fed fishing for an easy prosecution. Or you might be a regular Joe on the verge of not minding his opsec.

Biatec
Guest
Biatec

lol. Well I am probably the most likely thing to encounter on the internet. A beautiful lady with huge knockers and exercises a lot.

Jack B. Nimble
Guest
Jack B. Nimble

Age? Want to date? 😉

Wild Bill
Guest
Wild Bill

@Biatec, Now, you really better mind your opsec. Still it is different that a beautiful lady that exercises a lot would be interested in the NFA, the Hughes Amendment and background checks. Maybe it is just the curse of my cynical nature.

Tionico
Guest
Tionico

Hmm.. “beautiful lady” and “huge knockers”? Oxymoron right there A Lady would not be promoting hersolf on the size of those things “huge knockers” and “exercises a lot”? Another oxymoron. Women who are very physically active generally do not have “huge knockers” as the body deals with the excess to keep in balance with the demands placed upon the body by “exercises a lot”/ Methinks you think you have some good bait there. Perhaps you do.. but not for the sort of “catch” you think you are wanting. None of those three “characteristics’ matter one whit in the context of… Read more »