One of the most common mistakes of some gun right supporters is failing to understand that the Bill of Rights , including the Second Amendment, was written to constrain the federal government. It was not written to establish what each state may do, which is why each state has their own constitution and sets of laws to apply specifically within their borders. As part of these state-level laws, most states enshrined a right to bear arms (not all did), and many passed further restrictions on what rights convicted felons may have after they are released from prison, including denying them the right to bear arms.
Missouri is one of those many states that feels public safety is best preserved if felons remain disarmed after they are released from incarceration, but lawyers are now arguing that a gun rights law recently passed in the state gives them their gun rights back, even though the author of the legislation, known as Amendment 5, claims that was never his intent:
The amendment, supported by 60 percent of voters, declares the right to keep and bear arms “unalienable” and subjects laws restricting gun rights to “strict scrutiny.”
It repealed language that said that the right to bear arms does not justify carrying concealed weapons.
And it expanded defense rights, adding the right to defend families to the right to defend home, property and person.
Since its passage in August, defense lawyers have argued that the amendment invalidates the prohibition against ex-cons possessing guns.
At least one has been successful, when a St. Louis judge ruled that Amendment 5 invalidated the law for some convicted felons. That ruling is being appealed.
The amendment’s sponsor has said that it was not intended to allow felons to possess guns.
The apparent “oops” in Amendment 5 is that it fails to differentiate between violent and non-violent offenders. This resulted in a judge tossing a possession case in February.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker ruled that the Missouri law prohibiting felons from possessing guns is unconstitutional as applied in the case of Raymond Robinson, in part because it fails to differentiate between violent and non-violent felons.
The amendment declares the right to keep and bear arms “unalienable” and subjects laws restricting gun rights to “strict scrutiny.”
It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out in court, and what steps the Legislature takes to remedy any confusion.