Thursday, December 15, 2011

As-Applied Challenge to 922(g)(9) Shot Down

US v. Staten: Staten was charged with possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. He filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that 922(g)(9) violated his Second Amendment rights. The district court denied the motion and Staten entered a conditional guilty plea preserving the Second Amendment issue.

Between conviction and appeal, the Fourth Circuit issued its published decision in Chester (the second opinion), which laid out a two-step process for evaluating Second Amendment claims (at least in 922(g)(9) cases), but ultimately concluded that the Government hadn't met its burden of proving there was a "reasonable fit" between 922(g)(9) and a substantial governmental objective and remanded for further proceedings. In Staten's case, the Government did not provide the kind of evidence it has on remand in Chester, but did cite numerous social science studies linking domestic violence and firearms.

Ultimately, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the denial of Staten's motion to dismiss because the Government's citations, while not the best way of proving a reasonable fit, did do the job. They were all (but one) available publicly and could have been countered by Staten. What objections he did raise were easily dismissed. In making its ruling, the court repeatedly noted that Staten's challenge on appeal was an as-applied, rather than facial, challenge, so it's unclear what sort of impact it might have on other cases (like Chester itself on remand).

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