Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Convicted felons have Second Amendment right to own guns, Louisville judge rules

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – In what appears to be a first-of-its-kind ruling in Louisville, a judge determined that a convicted felon can’t be prosecuted on a firearms charge because it violates his Second Amendment rights.

Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Melissa Logan Bellows ruled Wednesday that it is unconstitutional for prosecutors to move forward with their case against Jecory Lamont Frazier under a state law prohibiting felons from owning a gun because it doesn’t outweigh the Second Amendment right that belongs to “all Americans.”

The Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office had argued before Bellows that the U.S. justice system has consistently disarmed people “who it deems to be unvirtuous, such as felons” and that the Kentucky Supreme Court has supported this argument.

“Therefore, the Court is reluctant to accept that the limits on the right protected by the Second Amendment are defined by a person’s virtue or good character,” Bellows ruled.

In a statement on Friday, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office said the ruling “deviates from well-established precedent, norm, and case law. We disagree with the ruling, and we are initiating steps to appeal it. Judges can make their own interpretations regarding the law, but they are subject to appellate scrutiny, which provides checks and balances on the judicial system.”

Bellows also ruled the prosecutors did not present evidence of a historical tradition of disarming felons after the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791.

Prosecutors, she said, failed to prove that state law “is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

Frazier was arrested on November 6, 2021, after Louisville Metro Police were called to the 3900 block of Taylor Blvd., after a driver hit a pole.

Police claim Frazier attempted to hide something in his vehicle when police arrived and then pulled out a handgun and handed it to a co-defendant “to conceal from officers that he is a felon in possession of a handgun,” according to the arrest citation.

His previous convictions include drug trafficking, fraud, tampering which physical evidence and being a felon in possession of a handgun.

Eggert wrote that other appeals courts across the nation, including in Mississippi, are ruling that laws prohibiting felons from owning firearms are unconstitutional.

And he pointed out that in 2006, Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott wrote in a dissenting opinion that, historically, Kentucky did not prohibit anyone from owning a firearm, including convicted felons.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackson Rice argued in a motion in the case that the U.S. high court rulings cited by Eggert and Bellows did not state that felons should be allowed to own guns.

“While the defendant’s conduct – possessing a firearm – might be covered by the plain text of the Second Amendment, the historical tradition of firearm regulation plainly supports a ban on convicted felons being in possession of a firearm,” he wrote in a motion.

As far as the historical argument, Rice wrote that in colonial times, convicted felons could not own “property or chattels and, thereby, implicitly, could not possess a firearm.”

The statement from the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office noted the the Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that felon in possession of a firearm prohibitions did not violate the state constitution.

Brian Butler, who used to be a prosecutor and is now a defense attorney, said he believes the ruling “is an earth shattering opinion” that will prompt similar motions in other gun cases until the state Supreme Court rules on the issue.

Attorney General Coleman and Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney File Appeal to Continue Prosecuting Convicted Felon for Gun Possession

FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 22, 2024)— Attorney General Russell Coleman and Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Gerina D. Whethers announced today they are appealing a recent Jefferson Circuit Court ruling, which would allow a convicted drug trafficker to possess a firearm.

Last week, the Circuit Court ruled that a state law barring felons from possessing firearms was unconstitutional and that prosecutors could not move forward on a charge against Jecory Lamont Frazier, a convicted drug-trafficking felon. The Attorney General’s appeal will be heard by the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

“Violent crime and deadly drugs are Louisville’s most urgent challenges. The Attorney General’s Office is committed to protecting families in this community in collaboration with Commonwealth’s Attorney Whethers, LMPD and other law enforcement partners,” said Attorney General Coleman. “We are appealing this order because it defies good common sense and would give even the most violent felon a broad right to possess deadly weapons. The most ardent supporters of the Second Amendment—me included—recognize the constitutionality of laws prohibiting the possession of firearms by felons like the defendant here.”

Frazier has a prior felon-in-possession conviction, a felony drug-trafficking conviction and multiple convictions for fraudulent use of a credit card.

The landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the individual right to keep and bear arms, District of Columbia v. Heller, which was written by Justice Scalia, specifically noted “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons.”

“I come from a military family, and that, combined with my respect for the rule of law, is why I too am a continued supporter of the Second Amendment for law-abiding citizens,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Gerina D. Whethers. “However, making it easier for those who have been previously convicted of felonies to access firearms puts the safety of our community at risk. Any order that runs contrary to our state laws already deemed constitutional under the Kentucky Constitution is a cause for concern.” source

Other Important 2nd Amendment Cases

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Federal Judge Tosses Gun Possession Case Against Convicted Felon United States v. Bullock

Third Circuit Holds that a Nonviolent felon May Not Be Stripped of Second Amendment Rights.

Convicted felons have Second Amendment right to own guns, Louisville judge rules

Ninth Circuit Panel Concludes That Some Felons May Have Second Amendment Rights

 Download PDFJudge Melissa Logan Bellows - Second Amendment Dismissal