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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Man Banned From Gun Ownership Loses Appeal

(CN) - A federal lifetime ban on gun ownership for domestic violence misdemeanants does not violate the Second Amendment, the 9th Circuit ruled Monday.

California resident Daniel Chovan's misdemeanor conviction stems from an incident of domestic violence in 1996.

He came to the attention of the FBI in 2009 when he failed to list his domestic violence conviction on a form while attempting to purchase a gun in San Diego.

The FBI searched Chovan's home in 2010 after finding videos on the Internet "depicting Chovan and others shooting rifles and conducting 'border patrols' near the U.S.-Mexico border," according to the ruling. Investigators also discovered that in March 2010 Chovan's estranged wife had told police responding to her call for help that Chovan had "threatened to hunt her down and shoot her if she ever left him."

Agents later confiscated four firearms and 532 rounds of assorted ammunition from Chovan's home.

Chovan sought to dismiss the indictment against him by challenging the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9), the federal statute passed by Congress in 1996 to combat domestic gun violence.

It applies only to those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes because such offenders, though prone to recidivism, often avoid felony charges.

Since California law would have only affected Chovan's gun-ownership rights for 10 years instead of life, he argued that the statute was an unconstitutional violation of the Second Amendment in general and as applied to him specifically.

After a federal judge denied the motion, Chovan entered a conditional guilty plea to illegally possessing firearms and making false statements to acquire them.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit unanimously affirmed on Monday. While at least four other circuits have previously upheld the statute, this was the first time the 9th Circuit had considered the issue.

Noting that the 1996 passage of § 922(g)(9) "was motivated by the concern that guns were not being kept away from domestic abusers under felon-in-possession laws because 'many people who engage in serious spousal or child abuse ultimately are not charged with or convicted of felonies," the appellate panel found that the government had shown that the ban was "related to the important government interest of preventing domestic gun violence."

"The government has demonstrated that domestic violence misdemeanants are likely to commit acts of domestic violence again and that, if they do so with a gun, the risk of death to the victim is significantly increased," Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the panel.

The panel likewise found that the statute had been properly applied to Chovan, who argued that his 15-year stretch without an arrest should have lifted the lifetime ban. He also asked the panel to ignore his ex-wife's 2010 statements to police because they had not resulted in his arrest.

The judges declined to do so.

"The March 2010 domestic abuse call supports the conclusions that Chovan is at risk of recidivism for domestic violence and that Chovan might use a gun to commit future domestic violence," Pregerson wrote. "In light of the domestic abuse call, § 922(g)(9)'s application to Chovan is substantially related to the goal of reducing domestic gun violence."

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