The nation’s high court on Monday let stand a ruling against the government in the combined cases of two men blocked from gun possession after run-ins that resulted in convictions for non-serious crimes.
This week, the court declined to take up an appeal sought by the Obama-era Justice Department in the cases of Binderup v. the U.S. Attorney General and Suarez v. the U.S. Attorney General. Four Justices were needed to grant the petition but only two, Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor, felt the court should hear the case.
Last September, a 15-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pennsylvania disagreed 8-7, siding with Binerup and Suarez in a lengthy 174-page decision. In the end, that panel cited the relatively minor sentences passed on the two men as the reason to disregard their crimes as being serious enough to void their gun rights.
Binderup pleaded guilty in 1996 in Pennsylvania to a misdemeanor charge of corrupting a minor — a 17-year-old he was in a relationship with — to which he received three years’ probation and a $300 fine rather than the maximum of five years in prison.
Suarez pleaded guilty in 1990 to unlawfully carrying a handgun without a license in Maryland, which could have resulted in as much as three years in prison but instead received an 180-day suspended sentence and $500 fine.
While neither spent a day in jail, both lost their firearms rights under a federal law that treats those convicted of state misdemeanors which can be punished by two or more years in jail as prohibited firearms possessors.
In the decades since their voluntary pleas, both men have been crime free and wanted to obtain legal guns to defend themselves and their families within their homes, forcing them to take up the matter in the courts.
Attorneys for the men, in a 50-page reply to the Supreme Court petition by then-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s office, held the men were not dangerous, that “the Government could not carry its burden in either district court” and that, “Given the complete lack of relevant evidence” the 3rd Circuit “had no choice but to affirm.”
The government’s case for continuing to bar the plaintiff’s’ Second Amendment rights was supported in briefs filed with the court by a number of gun control groups including Everytown, the Brady Center, and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Binderup was supported by the Second Amendment Foundation.
“While we were confident that our case would once again prevail before the Supreme Court, we’re delighted at the high court’s decision that allows our victory in the Third Circuit to stand,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb in a statement. “We established the principle that people who are convicted of certain misdemeanor crimes cannot be stripped of their fundamental right to keep and bear arms for life.”