Can a conviction in a foreign court bar gun rights?
This is a fairly surprising opinion in favor of gun rights. It's surprising simply because it is a pro-gun ruling, but also because the conservative justices tended to oppose the gun-rights position, while the liberal justices argued that a conviction in a foreign court could not be trusted.
This issue isn't an easy one. It's reasonable and almost
necessary for someone convicted of a violent felony in another country
to bear the consequences of that choice even when they move to the
United States, so long as they had a fair trial and their crime would also be a felony in the US. That makes it more of a case-by-case thing than anything else to my view.
This is exactly the sort of
problem that would be solved by a functioning (ie, funded) program to
restore firearms rights. There used to be one, where convicted
felons could apply to the BATFE to have their rights restored if they
had served their time and been upstanding citizens. But Congress
dropped funding for it. The lack of a program for this has
generated other cases as well (US v Bean).
What are the advantages of a program for the restoration of rights?
It recognizes that people can reform. A violent criminal
may reasonably be forbidden the possession of arms, for fear he will
pose a greater danger to society and his fellow citizens armed than
unarmed. But a reformed man with a violent past still possesses
his right to self-defense, and may no longer pose a danger to the
community. Present law and general practice considers a felony
conviction to be, in essence, a mark of cain -- making it almost
impossible to live a peaceful and honest life. This is
It allows the unusual cases like this one a hearing that does
not expose a citizen to unnecessary criminal liability. The case
here concerns a man who bought a firearm after being convicted, in
Japan, of smuggling firearms. Japan's laws are much stricter than
our own concerning firearms, and it's entirely possible that the
individual concerned was convicted for conduct that is perfectly legal
in the United States. Since the conviction occurred in Japan, it
wasn't entered into the NICS system. There's no way for an
individual in this situation to know whether he is allowed to possess a
firearm or not. Applying for a restoration of rights would
provide a clear answer without actually purchasing a firearm and being
charged with its possession.
This principle has appeared in the Parker v DC and Seegars v Gonzalez
cases as well. Simply put, it should not be necessary to violate
the law and await prosecution in order to determine whether a
particular course of action is lawful.
Finally, it would allow an administrative remedy to manifestly unjust cases. As an example, I'll take US v Emerson,
a 2nd-Amendment case that generated a lot of attention in the Fifth
Circuit and briefly looked as if it might see Supreme Court
review. Emerson was involved in a divorce, allegedly threatened his wife's boyfriend with a handgun, and on the basis of that allegation
a restraining order was issued. This is evidently a routine
practice in less-than-amiable divorces (and, as far as I'm concerned,
that's one more reason that marriage is not for me). The
restraining order made it a felony for Emerson to possess a
firearm. Not realizing this, he tried to purchase a firearm and
got in trouble as a result.
The problem was the lack of due process in the case. Emerson was
convicted of the firearms possession charge on the basis of the
restraining order, which he had never had opportunity to dispute.
A restoration process would enable him to regain his firearm rights.
Instead, because Congress is afraid of the issue, we get cases like this one.