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In Missouri, Felon Gets Gun Rights Back

St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker ruled on Feb. 27 that the Missouri law prohibiting felons from possessing guns is unconstitutional under the state’s new Amendment 5 language.

Judge Dierker dismissed a firearms possession charge against Raymond Robinson, who, according to the decision, is a partially disabled man in his fifties, and supports himself by doing odd jobs in his community. He was detained by St. Louis police officers during the evening of July 28, 2014. The officers were acting on an anonymous tip that the defendant was in possession of a firearm, and he had an outstanding warrant for arrest on a minor municipal charge.

During the stop, Robinson admitted that he had a pistol in his car and permitted the officer to search the car whereby the officer found a .380 automatic pistol.

Judging by Robinson’s statements during the plea and by the sentencing assessment report, Judge Dierker concluded that Robinson has not been a model citizen. He was previously convicted of unlawful use of a weapon by carrying a concealed weapon in 2003. He served time in the penitentiary after failing on shock probation. His parole record was not stellar, Dierker wrote.

Still, Robinson’s public defenders argued that Amendment 5 allows the legislature to limit the rights of violent felons or those “adjudicated by a court to be a danger to self or others as a result of a mental disorder,” and that Robinson wasn’t a danger.

Dierker based his decision on Amendment 5’s lack of definition between violent and non-violent felons, saying that Robinson “… has no record of violent felonies or mentally unstable behavior, although he does have prior arrests involving assault and resisting arrest and he admits to beating an individual who allegedly stole his tools.”

Dierker ruled that the ban on felons possessing firearms statute could not survive Amendment 5’s “strict scrutiny” requirement; it is unconstitutional because it “… fails to differentiate among classes of felonies, fails to define criteria whereby non-violent felons can be assessed for future dangerousness, and fails to impose any standard of proof before a non-violent felon can be stripped of his constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”

Dierker wrote, “If the right to keep and bear arms is ‘fundamental’ and ’unalienable,’ and restrictions are subject to strict scrutiny, it follows that the burden must always be on the State to establish that the defendant’s conduct is outside the protection of the constitution, not the other way around.”

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson is suing to invalidate the Amendment 5 vote. Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said she would appeal.

Dierker’s decision is not binding on other cases, and it has no effect on a federal law prohibiting felons from possession guns.

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