Friday, December 19, 2014

Appeals court: Gun control must meet toughest test

Breaking ranks with other federal appeals courts, and probably setting up a major test case for the Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled that laws imposing controls on the personal right to have a gun must satisfy the most rigorous constitutional test.  And, in another split with other courts, it was the first to strike down a federal gun law under the Constitution’s Second Amendment as expanded by the Supreme Court six years ago.

Since the Justices’ ruling in 2008 in District of Columbia v. Heller, finding in the Second Amendment a guarantee of a right to have a gun for personal use, at least in some circumstances, federal courts have struggled with how to apply that ruling in specific cases testing specific gun laws.  Before the Sixth Circuit ruled, however, none had declared that gun laws should be judged by a “strict scrutiny” test.

The Sixth Circuit’s decision came on Thursday in the case of Tyler v. Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Department, involving a southern Michigan man, now seventy-three years ago, who was involuntarily sent to a mental institution for only a brief period nearly thirty years ago.  He has long functioned normally in society, and is now considered to be mentally healthy and not dangerous.

Because of the brief stay in that institution, however, he is barred for life from having a gun, under the federal law that the Sixth Circuit has now nullified because it failed the “strict scrutiny” test.  He is not eligible for a special federal-state program that gives some who are barred by law from gun ownership a chance to become eligible to have a gun, because Michigan does not take part in that program, and he cannot get relief under another federal program that Congress has refused to fund.

Read the rest here.

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