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.

  • 28 thoughts on “Supreme Court Upholds Reform in 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act

    1. 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.

    2. 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?

      1. 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 go on Chucky Schumer’s hit list, with no notification and worse: no adjudication and both rights given to convicted felons. You know, the people the demo-commies would like to see regain their right to vote and enjoy other protections the constitution provides for law abiding citizens. The it gets even worse whereby any ruling Chucky wants to wave his magic wand over puts citizens, in increasing numbers, on a list of prohibited persons without so much as a notification to said person on the list!!!

        We can sit around and worry about our bump-stocks and binary triggers WILL BE NEXT, make no mistake about it. Then if need be, these same demo-commies will rub our noses into the position of the NRA when the Assault Weapons Ban was being debated. The statement was that Modern Sporting rifles were not Assault weaponsdue to the fact that they could only fire 1 round with each pull of the trigger.

        Before the 2016 election, I wrote of my concerns about the NRA and ILA about citizens suddenly losing their 2nd amendment rights without so much as a notification much less adjudication such as criminals found to be guilty and convicted of a felony, or any qualifying misdemeanor.

        Furthermore, I pointed out the fallacy of supporting candidates vying for national election while they’re no better than wolves in sheep’s clothing. In the case of Texans, that would be senator John Cornyn. The ILA directed me to his “proposed” Sportsman Act that I’ll admit looked good on paper, right up until it became evident that its only purpose was to look good on paper. And, soon to be followed by him posing for pictures with Dianne Feinstein calling for abolishing the right to own a Modern Sporting Rifle. No more mention of the “Sportsmans Act” and not one single mention of our rights to adjudication before any constitutional right was stripped away from us.

        Seems as though most of us don’t get it until we are losing our personal rights. While Chucky the potentate has the power to personally steal our rights away from us. Still he gets elected, even after authoring the initial Assault Weapons ban. Ever wonder why he doesn’t run for the presidency? Why should he become the target of some WACKO he stole constitutional rights for while he and those of his ilk have proven time and again that they have more power than any sitting president: with a propaganda machine, the likes Joseph Goebbels could only dream of!!!

        1. 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 to keep and bear arms and our accessories!

    3. 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 real problem, is the children’s, preteens, teenagers upbringing, tv & video game programming(s). We all need to know this, just check out some of it and you will all see, one is called YOMAMA JOKES and such. Also furthermore let’s all look at why countries such as central & south America has soooooo many guns & weapons & drugs, well that’s interesting considering why and which countries are in Such a demand for, well that all comes down to money & trade bottom line. Also let’s look at the real reason why these guns & weapons exist there & are directly & readily supplied to these countries & why they are provided with all of these American made guns & weapons to countries that keep there people suppressed & under a form of Tierney.
      Those type(s) of lies should not be written in law. Seems like a matter of time before America conforms to Mexico’s standards
      Once the citizen’s are dearmed the more types of actual crimmins and crimes could then be carried out. Like those border states and such.
      God Bless the truth.

    4. 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 free into. ‘Amerika land of the oppressed’? We have the illegal 1934 gun control act passed by politicians(who were born in the 1800’s) who really thought this would stop Al Capone and. John Dillinger? What a joke these politicians are. One could go to the nearest convenience store and pick someone out to. be a politican and they’d do a much better job than those in office.
      Background checks = gun registration = gun confiscation = democrat storm troopers kicking in your front door and hauling you off in handcuffs and leg chains to a democrat run New World Order gun control concentration death camp!

    5. “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.

      1. 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!

      2. 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

    6. 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 exercising their gun rights.. if you ever run afoul of the ATF, they will find a vague law that you violated and charge you with it.. I’m in law enforcement and have seen how the ATF works.. that is why I’m for complete abolishment of the agency..

      1. 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 citing that very same piece of plastic legal to sell, buy, possess and use! If ever the term prosecutorial misconduct needed an example, here you go.

        Moreover, least we forget, under law enforced by the ATF, straw buyers of firearms is a federal crime, well hold on now, unless your ATF authorizing straw buyers to make purchases and send thousands of firearms to Mexico (i.e., Fast and Furious). How many of those involved were prosecuted, Hmmmmm??

        Was not this same agency involved in the fiascos Ruby Ridge and Waco, along with other alphabet agencies! How many millions of tax payer dollars were paid out and how many were held accountable for the deaths of innocent women and children? Right, forgot, these are dedicated public servants, most likely promoted.

        1. 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 State. In some cases they could be charged with Sedition or as a Traitor. The normal charge would be “Perjury Under Oath ”
          Truthfully if just one violating politician, like Dianne Feinstein, who violates her Oath all the time,were charged then all of the other corrupt politicians wold be running for the woods. I believe that would only happen though if many petitions with thousands or maybe millions of names were presented to the President no matter who he is.
          Politicians are public servants and answer to the people besides the courts. Organized citizens is the only answer to the solution of criminal politicians, anything else will just stall or fail. If you want to be effective then start organizing citizens small scale and it will grow with people that believe in the Constitution.

        2. 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 violates the forefathers intent. Government violates the Constitution all the time, without the consent of the people. I wish I was a lawyer, I would simply charge the Government with criminal charges at the Federal Marshals office. there are so many existing legal laws that are supposed to protect the citizens but never used. WHY? politics is the answer and the scourge of the country.

      2. 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.

      3. 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,

    7. 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.

    8. 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.

      1. 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!!

            1. @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.

            2. 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 what is under discussioin here.

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