Gun possession by felons

If North Carolina permits a felon to have a firearm, isn’t he still covered by the Federal felon-in-possession law?

Per Eugene Volokh, the North Carolina Supreme Court finds that a lifetime ban on firearms possession by those convicted of non-violent felonies violates the North Carolina Constitution. Putting aside for the moment the questions of (1) whether the analysis is right (though as a non-expert I find the reasoning in the dissent persuasive) and (2) whether the result is good public policy, I’d like to ask a straightforward legal question: even if North Carolina law permits the plaintiff in this case to have a gun, wouldn’t he be in violation of the Federal felon-in-possession statute if he got one? And wasn’t he in violation of that statute during the years when he had a gun, before the North Carolina law just struck down was passed in 2004? The court cites his “years of law-abiding conduct” as evidence of his fitness to have a weapon. Can a course of conduct that constitutes a felony under Federal law properly be called “law-abiding”?

Special footnote for gun-totin’ opponents of “judicial activism” I’m waiting to hear your screams of outrage about “legislating from the bench.”

Extra-special footnote for libertarians If it’s unconstitutional to make a felony conviction a lifetime bar to gun ownership, how about making it a lifetime bar to voting?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

2 thoughts on “Gun possession by felons”

  1. How about this- the US Constitution itself says that denying those convicted of crimes the right to vote is kosher. See 14th Amendment:

    But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

  2. Unrelated Bonus: That same provision of the Fourteenth Amendment, since it repeatedly restricts its application to male citizens (as opposed, obviously, to females), destroys the argument that the equal protection clause (also of the Fourteenth Amendment) somehow applies to sex discrimination at all. Otherwise, by making sex distinctions, the Fourteenth Amendment violates itself! If an interpretaion of the Constitution makes it violate itself (excepting a later amendment that actually changes the earlier provision, e.g. lowering voting age from 21 to 18), it probably is an incorrect one.

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