Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

A Fourth Circuit Trifecta: New Rulings Confirm Need for Judges who Respect Second Amendment

Friday, February 24, 2017

A Fourth Circuit Trifecta: New Rulings Confirm Need for Judges who Respect Second Amendment

Anyone still unconvinced about the importance of the courts and the need for justices who support Second Amendment rights had plenty of food for thought this month, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issuing two anti-gun opinions in rapid succession. These follow a troubling decision in January, United States v. Robinson, addressed in a previous alert

On February 17, the court decided Hamilton v. Pallozzi, finding that a felon who has had all of his civil rights restored by the convicting jurisdiction and was found by a state court to be qualified to be entrusted with firearms, and who serves as a federal security officer, is not entitled to relief from a firearms disability in the state in which he currently resides. 

More than ten years ago, James Hamilton, the plaintiff, plead guilty to credit card fraud violations in Virginia (he agreed to let an individual buy him a laptop on a stolen credit card). The offense was nonviolent, his sentence was suspended with no actual jail time, and he successfully completed probation and other court-imposed conditions. A Virginia court subsequently restored his firearm rights, and his other civil rights were restored by the Governor of Virginia.  

In the years following his convictions, Hamilton worked towards becoming a “responsible, law-abiding American citizen.” Licensed to work as an armed guard, he was employed as a protective security officer with the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C.  When he relocated to Maryland, Hamilton sought to possess a handgun in his home to protect himself and his family. Maryland laws, however, prohibit any person “convicted of a disqualifying crime” from possessing a firearm. “Disqualifying crime” includes any out-of-state offense classified as a felony in Maryland, and two of Hamilton’s convictions qualified.

When Hamilton’s attorney made inquiries about obtaining a handgun qualification permit and recognition of Virginia’s restoration of his firearm rights, an Assistant Attorney General in Maryland responded that Hamilton could not possess a firearm in that state unless he obtained a full pardon in Virginia. Hamilton, though, was not eligible to seek a pardon until the expiration of a statutory five-year period.  Instead, he brought an as-applied challenge to the Maryland laws against William Pallozzi, Superintendent of the State Police, and Brian Frosh, the Attorney General of Maryland.      

The U.S. Supreme Court has generally upheld the validity of felon disarmament laws as “presumptively lawful” in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago, although an individual may challenge the application of such bans by presenting facts to distinguish his or her circumstances from those of person historically barred from Second Amendment protections.

Accordingly, Hamilton pointed to the restoration of firearm rights following his convictions (the only prohibiting factor regarding his ability to possess firearms), his lack of any history of violence or subsequent criminal charges, and his employment as an armed security officer for the Department of Homeland Security, as justifying a ruling that the laws were unconstitutional as applied to him. He argued that “the Second Amendment secures the arms rights of individuals who, having fallen within the metes and bounds of facially-valid arms prohibitions, have nonetheless become the responsible, law-abiding citizens whose rights the Amendment seeks to protect, and whose disarmament consequently serves no purpose.”

The Fourth Circuit, however, was unconvinced and dismissed his claim. Their analysis required Hamilton to show that his challenge wasn’t “ordinary” with facts and circumstances so clearly outside the norm that he was deserving of Second Amendment protections. The court found, categorically, that conviction of a felony necessarily removed a person like Hamilton from the class of “law-abiding, responsible citizens” for the purposes of the Second Amendment, unless the person was pardoned or the law defining the crime of conviction was found unconstitutional or otherwise unlawful. “Hamilton cannot rebut the presumption that he falls outside the category of ‘law-abiding, responsible citizens,’ and so cannot succeed in his as-applied challenge.” 

The court specifically “reject[ed] rehabilitation, recidivism, and passage of time evidence” in this assessment of factual circumstances because of “the additional greater consequences it has on our criminal justice system.” The restoration of Hamilton’s rights in Virginia (which the court dismissively called a “rather pro forma matter”) and the fact that the federal government entrusted Hamilton to be armed in the course of his employment – none of this “mandates that Maryland must permit Hamilton to be armed in his home.”

The result is that in Maryland (and the other states within the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit), persons like Hamilton who have “turned their life around” have almost no recourse against similar disarmament laws. 

A few days after this decision, the Fourth Circuit, clearly on a roll, ended its three-decision trifecta with a spectacular flourish in Kolbe v. Hogan – a decision upholding a Maryland ban on “assault weapons” and large capacity magazines because the banned assault weapons and magazines are arms that are beyond the reach or protection of the Second Amendment. (To read more about the Kolbe decision, please click here.)

TRENDING NOW
Court's Commonsense Conclusion: "There Was a Gun" Isn't Enough to Justify Issuing a Restraining Order

Second Amendment  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Court's Commonsense Conclusion: "There Was a Gun" Isn't Enough to Justify Issuing a Restraining Order

The Supreme Court of North Dakota confirmed this week that simply possessing a handgun while on one’s own private property cannot support a finding of "disorderly conduct" under the state’s disorderly conduct restraining order law. ...

Rep. Rob Bishop Introduces the "Lawful Purpose and Self Defense Act"

News  

Friday, May 26, 2017

Rep. Rob Bishop Introduces the "Lawful Purpose and Self Defense Act"

On Wednesday, May 24, 2017, Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources Rob Bishop (R-UT) introduced H.R. 2620, the "Lawful Purpose and Self Defense Act." This bill would remove ATF's authority to use the ...

Concealed Carrying Hits New High, Underscores Need for National Law

News  

Friday, May 26, 2017

Concealed Carrying Hits New High, Underscores Need for National Law

Information collected by the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) indicates an unprecedented surge in the number of concealed carry permits, with the largest one-year increase on record occurring between May 2016 and May 2017.

Legislation Reintroduced to Permanently Dismantle Obama-Era Enforcement Abuse

News  

Second Amendment  

Friday, May 26, 2017

Legislation Reintroduced to Permanently Dismantle Obama-Era Enforcement Abuse

This week, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) reintroduced the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act, a bill aimed at permanently dismantling Operation Choke Point (OCP).  

Illinois: House Committee Passes Bill to Close Local Gun Dealers

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Illinois: House Committee Passes Bill to Close Local Gun Dealers

The House Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 1657 by a 7-6 vote.

Abbott Signs Senate Bill 16, Bringing Texas License To Carry Fees Down to Among Lowest in Nation

News  

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Abbott Signs Senate Bill 16, Bringing Texas License To Carry Fees Down to Among Lowest in Nation

The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) today applauded Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for signing into law NRA-backed legislation that will make license to carry fees in Texas among the lowest in the ...

Nevada: Governor Sandoval Signs AB 118!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Nevada: Governor Sandoval Signs AB 118!

Today, May 22, Governor Brian Sandoval signed important pro-gun legislation, Assembly Bill 118, into law.  AB 118, sponsored by Assemblyman Skip Daly, will allow members of the military and those who have received an honorable ...

New Zealand Police Mislead Current and Prospective Gun Owners

News  

Thursday, May 25, 2017

New Zealand Police Mislead Current and Prospective Gun Owners

Back in April, NRA-ILA alerted readers to the results of the New Zealand Parliament Law and Order Committee’s “Inquiry into issues relating to the illegal possession of firearms in New Zealand,” which proposed that a ...

Public Health Researchers Use Common Gun Control Tactic to Mislead on “Children” and Guns

News  

Friday, May 26, 2017

Public Health Researchers Use Common Gun Control Tactic to Mislead on “Children” and Guns

It is one of the most well-worn tactics of those who advocate for gun control. Step one, acquire statistics on firearms injuries among children ages 0-14. Step two, combine these relatively low numbers with the ...

Illinois: Anti-Gun Legislators Attempting to Get “Assault Weapon” Language into law

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Illinois: Anti-Gun Legislators Attempting to Get “Assault Weapon” Language into law

This week, Senator Antonio Munoz filed Senate Amendment 2 to Senate Bill 556.

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
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.