10th Circuit denies post-Bruen appeal to restore gun rights to a woman convicted of check fraud | Courthouse News Service
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10th Circuit denies post-Bruen appeal to restore gun rights to a woman convicted of check fraud

More than a decade after she was convicted for check fraud, Melynda Vincent obtained an advanced degree and now works as a social worker, but a 1961 federal law prevents her from owning a gun.

DENVER (CN) — The 10th Circuit on Friday denied a Utah woman's plea to have her gun rights restored years after she was convicted of check fraud and turned her life around.

Melynda Vincent wrote a fraudulent check for $498.12 at a grocery store in 2008 when she was homeless and fighting off a drug addiction. She faced up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, but pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation without imprisonment.

Today she is a social worker who runs her own practice and works with the Utah Harm Reduction Coalition.

As a single mother, she wants to own a firearm to protect her family, but due to her past is banned by a 1961 federal law.

Vincent sued the federal government in 2020 and a federal judge dismissed the case in October 2021. Vincent appealed, citing the 2022 Supreme Court decision in New York Pistol & Rifle Association v. Bruen as shifting the burden to the government to show why she should still be deprived of her Second Amendment right.

While the landmark Bruen case has called into question many of the nation’s restrictions on gun ownership, the 10th Circuit said it doesn’t speak to the constitutionality of prohibiting felons from obtaining firearms.

New York’s licensing scheme, which was at issue in Bruen, is a separate issue entirely.

"Though Bruen created a new test for determining the scope of the Second Amendment, the court didn’t appear to question the constitutionality of longstanding prohibitions on possession of firearms by convicted felons,” wrote Circuit Judge Robert Bacharach in a 10-page opinion.

In addition to Bruen seeming to support criminal background checks for gun purchases, six of the nine Supreme Court justices specifically wrote in their opinions that the finding was not meant to cast doubt on the 2008 Heller case.

During oral arguments in May, the 10th Circuit panel also balked at the notion that Bruen suddenly reversed precedent set by the 2009 case U.S. v. McCane.

Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Paul Joseph Kelly, appointed by George W.H. Bush, and Circuit Judge Joel Carson, appointed by Donald Trump, joined Obama-appointed Bacharach in the majority opinion.

But Bacharach had more to say. In a six-page concurring opinion, Bacharach opined on the meaning of “the people” protected by the U.S. Constitution. The Second Amendment specifies that “a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Bacharach pondered whether “the term the people include individuals convicted of nonviolent felonies."

The 10th Circuit decision marks a split with the 3rd Circuit’s June decision in Range, which found a man who committed welfare fraud in 1995 was not precluded from obtaining a firearm.

Other post-Bruen challenges are aiming to take down state age limits on gun purchases, waiting periods and outright arms prohibitions against individuals served domestic violence restraining orders.

Over email, Vincent’s attorney, Sam Meziani, expressed disappointment at the decision and said he intends to take the case to the Supreme Court.

“We believe the court erred when it determined it did not need to apply the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Bruen to these facts,” wrote Meziani, who practices with the Salt Lake City firm Goebel Anderson.

“My client Ms. Vincent is non-violent and would be a responsible and law-abiding gun owner,” Meziani added. “The 1961 law violates the Constitution and treats my client like a second-class citizen.”

If not for the federal prohibition, Utah law would allow Vincent to obtain a gun.

Representatives for the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to inquires.

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Categories / Appeals, Civil Rights, Government

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