DC Circuit Affirms Conviction of Capitol Gun-Toter

Flags fly in front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON (CN) – A year and a half after his victory at the Supreme Court, the D.C. Circuit on Friday rejected an argument from a self-proclaimed “constitutional bounty hunter” that his 2014 guilty plea should be invalidated because a ban on guns on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol is a violation of the Second Amendment.

On May 30, 2013, Rodney Class parked his Jeep in a secured parking lot near the U.S. Capitol, leaving behind a cache of guns and knives as he went to the nearby House and Senate office buildings in hopes of meeting with lawmakers.

Class described himself to FBI agents as a “private attorney general” who travels the country enforcing laws against judges he thinks are ignoring their duties. He was on Capitol Hill that day hoping lawmakers would make his self-appointed title official before he traveled to Pennsylvania to intervene against a federal judge. Class did not threaten to use a gun against a judge.

Though Class is a veteran with a concealed carry permit in North Carolina, guns are strictly barred from the Capitol grounds.

Class’ car drew the attention of police officers, who noticed a large knife and an empty gun holster inside. He admitted he had weapons in the car and police found three guns after searching the Jeep.

Class eventually pleaded guilty to violating the ban, but later appealed his conviction on the grounds that the prohibition on guns on Capitol grounds violates the Second Amendment.

The D.C. Circuit upheld his conviction, saying Class waived his right to appeal the conviction on those grounds by pleading guilty. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed last year and sent the case back to the D.C. Circuit.

With the case before the federal appeals court for the second time, U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith wrote Friday that the parking lot where Class left his gun-loaded Jeep is exactly the type of place the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment precedent leaves open for gun regulations.

“As for the Maryland Avenue parking lot, although it is not a government building, we conclude that it is sufficiently integrated with the Capitol for Heller I’s sensitive places exception to apply,” Griffith wrote, referring to the landmark gun case District of Columbia v. Heller. “Accordingly, we conclude that the Second Amendment does not give Class the right to bear arms in the Maryland Avenue parking lot.”

Griffith also found that while determining the boundaries of the Capitol might be somewhat complicated, it is not so daunting a task that Class would have no way of knowing guns were banned from the parking lot. That conclusion defeated Class’ argument that his Fifth Amendment rights were violated because he did not have enough notice that having guns in the parking lot was illegal.

Leonard Powell, an attorney with the firm Jenner & Block who represents Class, did not immediately return a request for comment.

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