Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

Missouri Supreme Court Applies Strict Scrutiny to Gun Case, Upholds Ban on Felon-in-Possession

Friday, August 21, 2015

Missouri Supreme Court Applies Strict Scrutiny to Gun Case, Upholds Ban on Felon-in-Possession

On August 5, 2014, residents of the Show Me State approved Amendment 5 that strengthened Missouri’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms, with 61% voting in favor of the measure. The amendment made clear that Missouri citizens have an “unalienable” right to keep and bear arms and that any “restriction on these rights shall be subject to strict scrutiny.” It also states, however, that “[n]othing 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 duly adjudged mentally infirm by a court of competent jurisdiction.”

As is typical with any pro-gun measure, and despite the provision’s clear language concerning felons and those judicially deemed mentally infirm, opponents were quick with dire predictions of the chaos the provision would supposedly unleash. “Amendment 5 is a disaster,” said a St. Louis attorney. “I mean, that was just an inexplicably bad thing that happened in the state.” A Jackson County prosecutor said the amendment could have “potentially deadly consequences” and might allow “some of the most dangerous individuals, including convicted drug dealers and gang members, to legally carry firearms.” Everytown for Gun Safety, Michael Bloomberg’s gun control umbrella group, blustered: “These amendments call all state and local public safety laws into question, threatening even the most basic laws designed to keep guns out of the hands of felons and domestic abusers.”

As is also typical of antigun rhetoric, these statements were wrong. On Tuesday, the Missouri Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case of Missouri v. Merritt upholding the state’s felon-in-possession law against a challenge brought under the state’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms. “The felon-in-possession law, which bans felons from possessing firearms, with no exceptions other than possessing an antique firearm, is sufficiently narrowly tailored to achieve the compelling interest of protecting the public from firearm-related crime,” the court wrote. “Therefore, it passes strict scrutiny.” 

Merritt was federally convicted in 1986 of felony distribution of PCP. He was then charged in January 2013 with unlawfully possessing a revolver, a shotgun, and a .22 caliber rifle as a convicted felon. He was subsequently convicted of violating a Missouri law which states, “A person commits the crime of unlawful possession of a firearm if such person knowingly has any firearm in his or her possession and … [s]uch person has been convicted of a felony under the laws of this state, or of a crime under the laws of any state or of the United States which, if committed within this state, would be a felony.”

In resolving the case, the court applied the prior version of Missouri’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms, because that was the one in effect at the time of Merritt’s possession of the firearm on November 7, 2012. Nevertheless, it also found that the use of the prior amendment was not relevant to the standard of review to be applied to Merritt’s constitutional claim. This was because the Missouri Supreme Court had previously held that in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McDonald v. Chicago characterizing the right to keep and bear arms as fundamental, cases that arose after McDonald under Missouri’s right to arms would be subject to strict scrutiny. In other words, the Missouri Supreme Court viewed Amendment 5 as “a declaration of the law as it would have been declared by this Court after McDonald mandated that the fundamental right to bear arms applied to the states.”

Turning to the merits of the case, the court cited decisions of the Louisiana Supreme Court which upheld that state’s version of a felon-in-possession law against a challenge under a similar constitutional right to arms that explicitly requires strict scrutiny. While Missouri’s statutory ban is broader than Louisiana’s, the court noted it is not without limitation. It does not, for example, apply to felony convictions that have been expunged or pardoned, it does not apply to possession of “antique” firearms, and most importantly, it does not prohibit felons from asserting the right to self-defense.

The Louisiana experience is indeed instructive. Louisiana led the way in recognizing that the right to keep and bear arms should be subject to the strongest protection afforded constitutional rights under the law. As in Missouri, gun control advocates responded by predicting havoc that never materialized. Indeed, every criminal statute that has been tested by the state’s Supreme Court under the Louisiana “strict scrutiny” amendment has passed muster.

We at the NRA believe the right to keep and bear arms should be afforded the highest degree of constitutional protection available under law. That’s why we’ll continue to support amendments to state constitutions that recognize what the U.S. Supreme Court has already made clear:  that the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental to the American scheme of ordered liberty and should be treated that way in the nation’s courts. Carefully crafted laws that focus narrowly on proven threats to public safety will not be harmed by these efforts.

That won’t stop Everytown and like-minded groups from complaining about them, but then, public safety and the rule of law have never been their priorities. Their priority is civilian disarmament for its own sake, a goal that has now become legally impossible in “strict scrutiny” states like Louisiana, Missouri, and now Alabama. Respect for the rights of peaceable, law-abiding gun owners is why voters have overwhelming embraced strict scrutiny amendments in those states and why, conversely, those amendments are hated by gun control advocates.

IN THIS ARTICLE
Missouri Legal
TRENDING NOW
NRA-ILA Backed Lawsuit Filed Challenging Oregon Measure 114

Thursday, December 1, 2022

NRA-ILA Backed Lawsuit Filed Challenging Oregon Measure 114

Today an NRA-backed lawsuit was filed challenging Ballot Measure 114, which voters passed by a slim margin last month. Measure 114 creates a falsely labeled “permit to purchase” a firearm requirement and bans standard capacity magazines, which it ...

NY AG James Sends Threatening Letter to Ammunition Sellers

News  

Monday, November 21, 2022

NY AG James Sends Threatening Letter to Ammunition Sellers

In a move that surprised absolutely nobody, anti-gun New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) announced last week that she would expand her assault on the Second Amendment by targeting ammunition sellers. AG James claimed, ...

Recent ATF Action Shows Need for Suppressor Reform

News  

Monday, March 14, 2022

Recent ATF Action Shows Need for Suppressor Reform

As we reported last week, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) denied approximately 850 Form 1 applications for prospective makers of suppressors on February 28. These denials were apparently made due to ...

Maryland: Montgomery County Passes Carry Restrictions

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Maryland: Montgomery County Passes Carry Restrictions

Maryland’s most anti-gun county has continued its tantrum, lashing out against lawful carry in the only way it thinks it can. Yesterday, the Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to pass Bill 21-22E, to remove the exemption ...

Colorado: Broomfield City Moves to Adopt Gun Control Package to Diminish Second Amendment Rights!

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Colorado: Broomfield City Moves to Adopt Gun Control Package to Diminish Second Amendment Rights!

Earlier this week, Broomfield City Council advanced a gun control package to impose on law-abiding citizens.  The second reading will be held in January.  In truth, none of the slew of regulations will stop criminals ...

Hawaii: Honolulu Seeks to Severely Restrict Carry

Monday, November 28, 2022

Hawaii: Honolulu Seeks to Severely Restrict Carry

Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 29th, the Honolulu City Council will hear an ordinance to prohibit citizens from exercising their right-to-carry in many places. This is an attempt to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s NYSRPA v. Bruen ...

Public Lands Lawsuit Settled—All Lands Remain Open to Hunting

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Public Lands Lawsuit Settled—All Lands Remain Open to Hunting

In 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expanded hunting and fishing opportunities on more than 2.3 million acres of land. That decision was challenged in federal court, and the NRA, Safari Club International, Sportsmen’s ...

NRA Achieves Historical Milestone as 25 States Recognize Constitutional Carry

News  

Friday, April 1, 2022

NRA Achieves Historical Milestone as 25 States Recognize Constitutional Carry

Half the country will now enjoy the freedom to carry a handgun for self-defense without a permit from the state thanks to the tireless efforts of men and women of the National Rifle Association. 

CA DOJ Gun Owner Data Leak Due to “Deficiencies in Policies, Procedures, and Inadequate Oversight” Study Finds

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

CA DOJ Gun Owner Data Leak Due to “Deficiencies in Policies, Procedures, and Inadequate Oversight” Study Finds

Today, the California Department of Justice announced an independent study was completed regarding the recent data leak of gun owner information. The study found that while the leak was not intentional, it was "due to a number of ...

CPRC: FBI Wrong – Armed Citizens Stopped at Least 34% of “Active Shooter” Attacks

News  

Monday, October 17, 2022

CPRC: FBI Wrong – Armed Citizens Stopped at Least 34% of “Active Shooter” Attacks

Recent polling indicates that an increasing number of Americans view the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with distrust and disfavor. The results of a national survey conducted in August by Rasmussen Reports found that a majority of voters asked ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.