Supreme Court Rules Felons May Sell, Transfer Guns
Last year, I wrote of the case of Henderson vs. United States wherein a U.S. Border Patrol agent who, after being convicted of felony distribution of marijuana, was not allowed by a lower court to sell his collection of firearms to a third party. I mentioned that the United States Supreme Court agreed to address the issue.
The question before the court was when an individual surrenders his firearms to police and is later convicted of a felony, what happens to the firearms? The weapons can’t go back to the felon because federal law prohibits felons from possessing firearms. Yet the felon still owns the weapons, which could have considerable financial, sentimental, or historical value. Therefore, many felons in this situation would like to sell or transfer ownership their firearms, rather than let the government indefinitely possess them. Does federal law give felons that right to transfer ownership of firearms?
In an unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court recently decided that once a gun owner is convicted of a felony, lawfully owned firearms can be transferred from government custody as long as a court is satisfied that the buyer or recipient would not provide the felon with control or use of the items.
“What matters … is whether the felon will have the ability to use or direct the use of his firearms after the transfer,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the majority. The opinion further added that the issue of whether the felon can direct the transfer of the weapons was irrelevant.
Kagan wrote that lower courts and governments could “seek proper assurances” from the third party “to promise to keep the guns away” from the felon.
The government argued the issue of possession. If possession is being in dominion and control, a convicted felon cannot control where his gun goes because that would require him to possess it, even if he does not have it in his hands.
The Supreme Court said held that as long as the felon does not end up with them in his hands, he can send them any place he wants.
Then judgement from the lower court was vacated and the case was remanded.
Attorney Elizabeth B. Carpenter is a New Orleans firearms defense attorney.