7th Circuit Appeals Court Questions Prohibitions on Felon Gun Ownership

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A three judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled 2-1 to vacate and remand a lawsuit challenging the federal felon firearm ban. The decision removes the lower court’s ruling and requires them to rehear the trial.

Atkinson v. Garland challenges the prohibition on firearms ownership by non-violent felons. Patrick Atkinson filed this lawsuit prior to Bruen after being barred from owning firearms for a 1998 guilty plea to felony mail fraud (and an otherwise clean record for 24 years after that).

Read about a similar case out of the 3rd Circuit that was ruled in favor of 2A. 

Current U.S. law bars gun possession for anyone who, like Atkinson, has a conviction for “a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.”

Writing from the bench for the majority, Judge Scudder explained the district court’s reasoning in delivering its decision, which was then appealed:

Relying on our pre-Bruen framework, the district court granted a motion from the government and dismissed the case. Our precedent, the district court explained, compelled that outcome…. But we did so under the means-end inquiry after determining that the historical record on felons possessing firearms was “inconclusive.” Because our precedent moved straight to the means end analysis, the district court did not conduct the historical analysis that Bruen now requires.

Means-end analysis and similar subjective types of balancing interest were explicitly forbidden in Bruen, which produced a new framework for weighing Second Amendment related issues based on text, history and tradition. The 7th Circuit panel acknowledged this important criteria in its decision.

The parties’ briefing does not grapple with Bruen. The best way forward, as we see it, is to return the case to the district court for a proper, fulsome analysis of the historical tradition supporting § 922(g)(1).

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