For many of us, the idea of losing our Second Amendment rights is horrific. We’re not alone. Many people throughout this nation feel the same way, even if they’re not Second Amendment advocates.

One such person is Amanda Longley.

Longley was involved in a confrontation with the father of her child and the man’s girlfriend. As a result of that confrontation, Longley pled guilty to two misdemeanors, one for disorderly conduct and one for battery, and was sentenced to a year’s probation. However, because of the nature of the charges, there was an additional punishment.

Longley was barred from ever purchasing a firearm.

Later, however, Longley discovered that her plea carried a much more enduring and serious consequence and one which her lawyer had neglected to warn her: a permanent loss of Second Amendment rights. This is because her conviction triggered a federal law that bans firearm possession by those convicted of a so-called “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.” 

After learning of her prohibited status, Longley asked the court for permission to withdraw her guilty plea, noting she would have not have pled guilty had she known she would thereafter be disqualified from firearm possession. She acknowledged that the Wisconsin Supreme Court had denied a similar request in a 1999 case but argued developments since then allowed the appellate court to reconsider that decision. 

Specifically, Longely cited a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case, Padilla v. Kentucky. There, the court allowed a Honduran citizen to challenge his conviction for “the transportation of a large amount of marijuana in his tractor-trailer” because his lawyer failed to warn him that pleading guilty to drug distribution could result in deportation. This, according to the Supreme Court, deprived Padilla of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. 

Unfortunately for Longley, the judge wasn’t sympathetic. You see, it appears that the judge felt deportation and the loss of a sacred, protected right, were different animals entirely.

In the view of Judge Paul Lundsten, who wrote the opinion in the Longley case, an American citizen’s Second Amendment rights cannot be compared to a foreign national’s interest in avoiding deportation when it comes to consequences a constitutionally effective lawyer must mention in relation to a plea. Citing the “unique” nature of deportation, Judge Lundsten dismissed the idea that the same rationale applied to loss of Second Amendment rights. Courts are not “now generally free, let alone required, to apply [the Padilla case’s] factors to expand counsel’s duties as to all manner of collateral consequences,” he wrote.

Other than the right to keep and bear arms, we don’t know of any other fundamental civil liberty that can be permanently forfeited for a mere misdemeanor conviction. The predicament that Longley faces is “unique” in its own right; recognizing a lawyer’s duty to warn of it would not open the floodgates to imposing unrealistic expectations on defense attorneys’ professional responsibilities. 

That the courts don’t see it that way, however, says more about their own priorities than the importance of the interests at stake.

I can’t agree more. Longley is now blocked from exercising a constitutionally protected right because of her plea. I fail to see how that isn’t a major problem for Judge Lundsten, especially since immigrants don’t necessarily have a right to be in the country in the first place. Immigration isn’t guaranteed to anyone under the constitution, after all.