7th Circuit Reinstates Conviction in Gun Case
(CN) - A Wisconsin man with two misdemeanor domestic violence convictions does not have a Second Amendment right to carry guns, the 7th Circuit ruled on a 10-1 vote, reinstating his conviction for a gun violation.
Steven Skoien was convicted of domestic violence against his wife and, later, his fiancée. While on probation, he was found in possession of a pistol, a rifle and a shotgun, though federal law bars anyone convicted of violent misdemeanors from owning or carrying firearms. Skoien was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison for the gun violation.
Skoien challenged the gun ban, claiming it creates a "perpetual" disqualification for domestic violence convicts. He said Congress' intent to prevent further risk to the family is not advanced by a law that revokes the constitutional rights of those with no repeat incidents.
All but one judge on the 11-judge panel in Chicago rejected this argument, explaining that because Skoien is a repeat offender, he cannot advance a hypothetical argument about one-time offenders.
The ruling overturns a three-judge panel's decision last fall to overturn the conviction.
"Whether a misdemeanant who has been law abiding for an extended period must be allowed to carry guns again ... is a question not presented today," Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote for the majority.
Judge Diane Sykes sharply dissented, saying the court's approach "fell far short of the legal heavy lifting normally required to justify criminally punishing the exercise of an enumerated constitutional right."
"The government normally has the burden of justifying the application of laws that criminalize the exercise of enumerated constitutional rights," she wrote. "We should follow that norm, not pay lip service to it."
She said the case should be sent back to trial court, where prosecutors should have the burden of showing that the law is constitutionally valid.