The Volokh Conspiracy

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Second Amendment claim of felon with 25-year-old false statements conviction may go forward


In Hatfield v. Lynch (S.D. Ill. Dec. 20, 2016), the plaintiff sued for a declaration that the government could no longer forbid him to own a gun; he has a felony conviction on his record, and the Supreme Court has held that disqualification of people with such convictions is "presumptively" valid, but here he argues that the presumption is rebutted: He was convicted of "one count of making false statements with regard to benefit claims under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act … on February 28, 1992," and hasn't had any further convictions since then. The district court concluded that his case could go forward, because his complaint "plausibly suggests that the plaintiff has a right to relief above a speculative level since the categorical bans on firearm possession are presumptively constitutional valid, but are open to possible rebuttal." Whether the plaintiff should actually prevail is left to future proceedings.

For more on the subject, see Binderup v. Attorney General (3d Cir. 2016); if Hatfield is appealed after the further proceedings take place, the Seventh Circuit will also have a chance to squarely opine on the issue. So far, the Seventh Circuit has "left open the possibility that a felon might be able to rebut [the] presumption" that the felon-in-possession ban is constitutional as applied, but hasn't directly resolved the question, or further defined which felons can indeed rebut the presumption.