The Supreme Court recently released a decision that I agree with, yet vehemently oppose the basis of. Here it is, Voisine, et.al. v. United States.
This ruling basically upheld the Constitutionality of the 1996 Lautenberg Amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968. These two men, Voisine and Armstrong, pled guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence charges and were caught possessing firearms some time later.
I actually support the court in their decision to uphold the law as it stands. The petitioners cries of “it wasn’t on purpose that I hit my partner” rings hollow because these men pled guilty to the original charges. If they wanted to bring up their lack of mens rea (the guilty mind, e.g. intent), the time and place for that was before the guilty plea.
However, the law which formed the basis upon which everything else is built is corrupted because it is a bad law.
A bit of history: In 1968, Congress passed the Gun Control Act of 1968. The initial idea for this was in response to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It never went anywhere until the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. This law created the Federal Firearms License, the banning of firearms sales through the mail and many other aspects of the reality for gun owners today. One of the major parts of this law was the permanent “chilling” of a citizens RKBA (Right to Keep and Bear Arms) under the Second Amendment if they are convicted of a felony. I have spoken on the subject of chilling rights before.
There are two basic kinds of crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. What separates these two is the level of punishment. A misdemeanor is punishable by confinement of no more than 11 months and 29 days (less than a year). A felony is punishable by confinement over a year. From 1968 until 1996, you lost your RKBA (Right to Keep and Bear Arms) under the Second Amendment only upon your conviction of a felony.
In 1996, The Lautenburg Amendment amended 18 U.S.C. 922 (that part of the United States Code that came from the GCA of 1968) to specifically include misdemeanor Domestic Violence convictions in the list of things that chill your RKBA. This amendment specifically added 18 U.S.C 922(g)(9). Out of the tens of thousands of misdemeanor offenses that you can be punished for, this one alone will cause you to lose your RKBA.
Simple assault is basically an unwelcome contact with another person. It can range from one person touching another person on the arm when they have told the first person not to touch them, all the way up to a semi-serious beating (no weapons used, no broken bones or other serious injuries). Simple assault becomes Domestic Violence when it is done against a family member or the family member of someone the assaulter is in a relationship with.
Example: Everyone meet Ray (Hi Ray!). Ray and his wife Becky have been in a feud with their neighbor Jill. One day, it all comes to a head and Ray went and beat the crap out of Jill. Becky, who saw the assault, started to freak out over the violence. Ray tries to hug her to calm her down and Becky said, “Get away from me!” Ray grabs her anyway and holds her until she calms down. By this time the police get there and Ray is arrested and charged with assault against Jill and domestic violence against Becky. Ray gets 6 months in the County jail for each conviction, however because one of the convictions was domestic violence was against Becky, he can no longer own or possess firearms, even though he beat Jill and didn’t hurt Becky. An extreme example? Kind of, but relevant and realistic nonetheless.
Just so you can be aware, here is the entire list of actions that will get your RKBA revoked, with the Lautenburg Amendment bolded:
18 U.S.C 922 (g) It shall be unlawful for any person—
(1) who has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
(2) who is a fugitive from justice;
(3) who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802));
(4) who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution;
(5) who, being an alien—
(A) is illegally or unlawfully in the United States; or
(B) except as provided in subsection (y)(2), has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa (as that term is defined in section 101(a)(26) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(26)));
(6) who has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
(7) who, having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced his citizenship;
(8) who is subject to a court order that—
(A) was issued after a hearing of which such person received actual notice, and at which such person had an opportunity to participate;
(B) restrains such person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner of such person or child of such intimate partner or person, or engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child; and
(C)(i) includes a finding that such person represents a credible threat to the physical safety of such intimate partner or child; or (ii) by its terms explicitly prohibits the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against such intimate partner or child that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury; or
(9) who has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,
to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.
Another thing that this amendment did was to violate the Constitution, specifically Article 1, Section 9, Article 3, “No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed.” The term “ex post facto” is Latin for “after the fact,” where a law is passed today that criminalizes an action committed before the law became effective and people are subsequently punished under that law.
As an example, say last year you chopped down your neighbors’ tree because it irritated you immensely (its leaves landed on your property, it blocked the afternoon sun on your porch, the neighbor refused to trim the tree, pick one or more). For some reason, at the time it was not against the law for you to do so (it was partially on your property, whatever). Your enraged neighbor then starts petitioning the government and gets a law passed last week criminalizing what you did. Today the County Sherriff knocks on your door and arrests you for violating that tree-chopping law. That is an example of ex post facto.
The document about the Lautenberg Amendment above says this about this “not violating the ex post facto law.”
[T]he court [Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit] explained that the Lautenberg Amendment, by prohibiting post-enactment possession, did not criminalize conduct that occurred prior to its effective date. As such, the court held that the Amendment was not retrospective and, therefore, not violative of the Ex Post Facto Clause. This explanation referred to Hiley v. Barrett.
This “reasoning” is utter bullshit for this simple reason: If someone committed a crime in 1976 (20 years before the law became effective) and completely paid their debt to society in 1977, yet when this law became effective in 1996 they lost their RKBA rights. Their reasoning this isn’t ex post facto? The Lautenberg Amendment does not punish you for your firearm possession between 1978 and 1995, only your possession after 1996. The loss of rights for a person today, for having committing an act before this law was passed, who paid the debt assigned upon conviction at that time is the very definition of ex post facto. “I did something bad years ago and I was punished for it. Today, I am penalized more for something where I have already paid my time.”
These two reasons are why 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9) is a very bad law. This section needs to be abolished, or domestic violence needs to be elevated to a felony status. The ex post facto part of it needs to be revoked as well.