United States District Judge David Counts of the Western District of Texas, appointed in 2018 by former President Donald Trump, made this conclusion on Sept. 19 as he dismissed a federal indictment against Jose Gomez Quiroz who had been charged under the federal ban.
Quiroz was indicted in a Texas state court for burglary and later for bail jumping after he attempted in late 2021 to buy a .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun. This led to his federal indictment.
On June 23, a federal jury found Quiroz guilty of one count of illegal receipt of a firearm by a person under indictment and one count of making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm.
On the same day, the Supreme Court settled a case – New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen – wherein the court declared for the first time that a person's right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment protects that person's right to carry handguns in public for self-defense. This decision struck down New York state's concealed carry law and ordered the courts to uphold gun restrictions only if there is a tradition of them in American history. (Related: Texas Department of Public Safety is trying to undermine pro-gun court ruling in Texas.)
Following the Supreme Court's decision, Quiroz moved to have the case dismissed. Counts' ruling granted this request, noting that "this case's real-world consequences – certainly valid public policy and safety concerns exist." But he also noted that these concerns are framed "solely as a historical analysis."
"Although not exhaustive, the Court's historical survey finds little evidence that … [the federal ban] – which prohibits those under felony indictment from obtaining a firearm – aligns with this Nation's historical tradition," wrote Counts in his 25-page opinion.
Counts called the ban unconstitutional, as the Second Amendment "is not a 'second class right.'"
"No longer can courts balance away a constitutional right," he wrote. After Bruen, "the Government must prove that laws regulating conduct covered by the Second Amendment's plain text align with this Nation's historical tradition. The Government does not meet that burden."
In the same ruling, Counts also tossed out a charge of obtaining a firearm while under indictment. He said it was unknown "whether a statute preventing a person under indictment from receiving a firearm aligns with this Nation's historical tradition of firearm regulation." He added that he does not know whether it is still constitutional to regulate firearms like this "in a post-Bruen world."
"This Court does not know the answers; it must only try to faithfully follow Bruen's framework," he wrote.
A spokesperson for U.S. Attorney Ashley Hoff of the District Court for the Western District of Texas, whose office pursued the case in the first place, indicated that prosecutors have filed a notice of appeal.
In its earlier filings, the U.S. Attorney's office claimed the law prohibiting felony indictees from obtaining guns does not contradict the Second Amendment "because it does not disarm felony indictees who already had guns and does not prohibit possession or public carry."
"The Second Amendment has always allowed laws restricting the gun rights of groups viewed by legislatures as posing a public safety risk, including those accused but not convicted of wrongdoing," wrote the prosecutors.
Nicole Golden, executive director of the anti-gun rights organization Texas Gun Sense, claimed that there have always been "reasonable limitations" on the right to bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment.
"Support for sensible gun laws has been really high, especially this summer in the wake of Uvalde," claimed Golden. "This feels very much in violation of what I think the public is expecting when it comes to how we address our public safety."
Learn more about the right to bear arms at SecondAmendment.news.
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