The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which includes Nevada, last month upheld a federal law banning firearm possession for any person convicted of domestic violence, including misdemeanor charges, for life. The Court ruled that the law does not violate a person’s rights under the Second Amendment.
Under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9), a person convicted of a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence, including a state charge, may not possess a firearm. A person convicted of a felony domestic violence charge may not possess a gun under another section of the same law, which prohibits people convicted of any felony from firearm possession.
The Ninth Circuit case is U.S. v. Chovan. In the case, Daniel Chovan, a California resident, had been convicted of a domestic assault charge in 1996. In 2010, the FBI and the ATF executed a search warrant and found a .22 caliber handgun and 532 rounds of ammunition in his home. He was indicted on two charges of violating § 922, one for possession of a firearm and one for making a false statement in the acquisition of a firearm.
Chovan moved to dismiss the first count, which was denied. He pled guilty and was sentenced to five years probation. He appealed the conviction, arguing that his civil rights had been restored, and that the federal ban violated his fundamental right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. He argued that the 2008 Supreme Court case D.C. v. Heller established that the Second Amendment guaranteed an individual right to bear arms.
The Ninth Circuit rejected his argument. In his opinion for the court, Judge Harry Pregerson wrote that Chovan had never lost his “core civil rights,” the right to vote, hold public office or serve on a jury, and therefore did not qualify to have his civil rights restored. He wrote that the Heller case did not create an unlimited Second Amendment right, and that the ban addressed an important government interest and therefore met the intermediate level of scrutiny applied.
The case could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, who could uphold the ruling or strike down the law. However, for now, defendants facing domestic violence charges in Las Vegas must accept that the loss of a right to bear arms is one of the punishments they face if convicted. A domestic violence charge will result in jail time of at least two days for a first offense, along with possible fines and court costs, community service and counseling sessions at the defendant’s expense.