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April 26, 2005


Law.com reports today’s Supreme Court 5-3 ruling that people convicted of a crime overseas may own a gun in the United States:

The Court reasoned that U.S. law, which prohibits felons who have been convicted in “any court” from owning guns, applies only to domestic crimes.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the majority, said interpreting the law broadly to apply to foreign convictions would be unfair to defendants because procedural protections are often less in international courts. If Congress intended foreign convictions to apply, they can rewrite the law to specifically say so, he said.

Breyer was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy dissenting.

The ruling was in favor of Gary Sherwood Small, who in 1998 answered “no” to the felony-conviction question on a federal form when he purchased a handgun. In fact, Small had just been paroled in Japan, where he had served time for a weapons violation. He was subsequently indicted for illegal firearms possession.

For resident aliens purchasing a gun in the U.S., the federal question has long been a source of bemusement. If their answer is “no,” a letter of confirmation from a foreign embassy or consulate is required. However at this point the system breaks down, because no checks are ever made—aliens simply pay a (small) fee, and get an official letter bearing witness to their spotless character. Regardless of how many people they massacred back home.

Posted by Stephen at 5:59 PM in Legal issues | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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