Non-Violent Felons May be Able to Regain Second Amendment Rights

Updated: May 17, 2018 to include article link from the Chicago Tribune.

In 1990, Larry Edward Hatfield lied on some forms to the Railroad Retirement Board, a felony.  He pleaded guilty, received no jail time and a small restitution fine.  In 2016, he sued for the right to own a handgun under the Second Amendment, a right he permanently “lost” under the federal felon-in-possession ban of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1).  Though the Seventh Circuit held the ban presumptively lawful in United States v. Williams in 616 F.3d 685 (7th Cir., 2010), that Court acknowledged there was impliedly some circumstances where the presumption could be overcome, that a felon could still be a law-abiding, non-dangerous person who still enjoyed Second Amendment rights.

Recently, the Southern District of Illinois stated in the Opinion that Hatfield met that exception, ruling the Government could not reconcile the positions that Hatfield was too dangerous to possess a firearm due to the 1990 felony, while maintaining then that his crime was so minor that it merited no jail time and only a small fine.  While the Government may still appeal, and while the Court limited its ruling to a narrow set of circumstances, Hatfield demonstrates an emerging area of Second Amendment jurisprudence that largely started with the Third Circuit’s decision in Binderup v. Attorney General.

The takeaway is that those with long-ago felonies, especially non-violent felonies, may have an opportunity to regain Second Amendment rights, though the individual circumstances will be crucial. Read more about the case here  and in the Chicago Tribune article from May 17, 2018.

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