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Non-Violent Offenders and Illegal Migrants Granted Gun Rights by Courts

Recent court rulings from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and a U.S. District Court have allowed non-violent felons and some illegal migrants to own firearms, citing the Second Amendment. These decisions are based on interpretations of a 2022 Supreme Court ruling that extends gun rights to individuals reentering society and emphasizes self-defense.

CALIFORNIA, ILLINOIS (6-minute read) — Two recent and controversial court rulings have paved the way for non-violent felons and certain illegal migrants to legally own firearms. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois both issued rulings that challenge existing prohibitions based on interpretations of the Second Amendment.

Gun Rights For Non-Violent Felons

In California, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Steven Duarte, a man with five prior non-violent state criminal convictions. Duarte had previously been convicted for throwing a handgun out of a moving vehicle. The court determined that Duarte, as a non-violent offender who had completed his prison sentence and reentered society, was protected under the Second Amendment. This decision overturned a lower court’s ruling and vacated Duarte’s last conviction related to firearm possession. The Ninth Circuit’s decision heavily referenced the 2022 Supreme Court case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen. The Bruen ruling emphasized that the Second Amendment’s protections extend to individuals who have rejoined society after serving their sentences.

However, the decision was not unanimous. The dissenting judge argued that the Second Amendment should protect law-abiding citizens, not those with non-violent criminal backgrounds. This interpretation highlights the ongoing debate about the balance between public safety and individual rights under the Second Amendment.

Gun Rights for Illegal Migrants

Meanwhile, in Illinois, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled that certain illegal migrants could also own firearms. Her ruling centered on Heriberto Carbajal-Flores, an undocumented immigrant who had no felony record, no history of violent crimes, and no convictions involving firearms. Judge Coleman found that despite Title 18 of the U.S. Criminal Code, which generally prohibits illegal migrants from possessing firearms, Carbajal-Flores’s circumstances warranted an exception.

Judge Coleman cited the same Supreme Court decision, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, in her opinion. She argued that the Bruen decision affirmed the right of law-abiding individuals to carry firearms for self-defense. She noted that Carbajal-Flores, who had committed no crimes other than his immigration status, posed no public safety risk and had a valid self-defense claim for owning a firearm.

Debate Continues

These rulings have sparked significant debate. Advocates argue that these decisions uphold the fundamental rights enshrined in the Second Amendment, even for individuals with non-violent criminal backgrounds or those in the country illegally. Critics, however, worry about the implications for public safety and the broader interpretation of who qualifies as a “law-abiding” citizen under the Second Amendment.

Safety Tip: Always ensure you are knowledgeable about your local laws regarding firearm ownership and use. Staying informed helps maintain both legal compliance and personal safety.

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