Under the history and tradition of the Second Amendment, nonviolent offenders should not lose their natural right to keep and bear arms.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 25, 2022) — Firearms Policy Coalition today announced the filing of an important brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to grant certiorari in Morin v. Lyver, a case challenging Massachusetts’s lifetime ban on firearm purchases as applied to a person convicted of a nonviolent misdemeanor. FPC’s brief is joined by FPC Action Foundation (formerly Firearms Policy Foundation) and can be found at FPCLaw.org.
In 2004, Massachusetts resident and License to Carry (LTC) permit holder Alfred Morin, Ph.D, traveled to Washington, D.C. with a handgun. Unaware of District of Columbia laws, he saw a sign prohibiting firearms at the American Museum of Modern History and approached a guard to inquire about checking his gun. Police arrested Dr. Morin and charged him with carrying a pistol without a license, possession of an unregistered firearm, and unlawful possession of ammunition. The Superior Court of the District of Columbia sentenced Dr. Morin 60 days imprisonment on each count, as well as three months of supervised probation and 20 hours of community service.
Under Massachusetts law, an individual who has been convicted of a nonviolent misdemeanor can obtain a license to possess a handgun at home after five years have passed. However, this same person can never obtain authorization to purchase a handgun— meaning that the only way they can obtain one is through inheritance. Dr. Morin, the petitioner, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit which upheld the Massachusetts handgun purchase ban.
According to the brief, “Both English and American tradition support firearm prohibitions on dangerous persons—disaffected persons posing a threat to the government and persons with a proven proclivity for violence.” However, the brief clarifies, “There is no tradition of disarming peaceable citizens. Nor is there any tradition of limiting the Second Amendment to ‘virtuous’ citizens. Historically, nonviolent criminals who demonstrated no violent propensity were not prohibited from keeping arms. Indeed, some laws expressly allowed them to keep arms. Thus, using history and tradition to interpret the Second Amendment’s text, as Heller did, ‘the people’ who have the right to keep and bear arms include peaceable persons like Morin.”
“The frequency of cases like Dr. Morin’s illustrates how prevalent the problem is of individuals being denied Second Amendment rights due to nonviolent misdemeanor convictions,” said Joseph Greenlee, director of constitutional studies at FPC Action Foundation and author of the brief. “History shows that peaceable persons have full Second Amendment rights. Yet across the country, many continue to be denied their right to keep and bear arms based on nonviolent offenses. We hope that the Court will grant certiorari and restore Dr. Morin’s rights.”
The brief cites Greenlee’s authoritative scholarship on the issue, specifically an article published in 2020 by the Wyoming Law Review entitled, “The Historical Justification for Prohibiting Dangerous Persons from Possessing Arms.”
Firearms Policy Coalition (firearmspolicy.org), a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization, exists to create a world of maximal human liberty, defend constitutional rights, advance individual liberty, and restore freedom. FPC’s efforts are focused on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and adjacent issues including freedom of speech, due process, unlawful searches and seizures, separation of powers, asset forfeitures, privacy, encryption, and limited government. The FPC team are next-generation advocates working to achieve the Organization’s strategic objectives through litigation, research, scholarly publications, amicus briefing, legislative and regulatory action, grassroots activism, education, outreach, and other programs. FPC Law (FPCLaw.org) is the nation’s largest public interest legal team focused on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, and the leader in the Second Amendment litigation and research space.