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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Mo. Nonviolent Offenders Cannot Possess Guns

(CN) - The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that a state constitutional amendment does not give nonviolent felons the right to bear arms.

Pierre Clay was stopped last year for a traffic violation and was arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

His prior felony was the nonviolent unlawful use of a weapon.

Clay moved to dismiss the possession charge, claiming that the Missouri Constitution protects his right to bear arms because he has not committed any violent crime.

An amendment to the state constitution guarantees citizen's right to bear arms and ammunition, and explicitly states that "nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the general assembly from enacting general laws which limit the right of convicted violent felons [to bear arms]."

The Missouri Supreme Court in a 5-2 decision ruled against Clay on Tuesday, finding that the state constitution is silent as to the right of nonviolent felons to possess firearms.

Missouri's high court found that the amendment's language does not bar the legislature from adopting laws to regulate firearm possession by nonviolent offenders.

"Amendment 5 makes explicit that the clarification of the application of strict scrutiny and the other changes adopted cannot be construed to prohibit regulation of arms by such persons. The amendment simply is silent as to others," Judge Laura Stitch said, writing for the court's majority. "This does not mean that regulation of the possession of arms by others is not permitted."

Judges Richard Teitelman and George Draper III dissented from the majority opinion.

"The practical effect of section 571.070.1 is that individuals with no demonstrated propensity toward violence are forever stripped of their fundamental constitutional right to keep and bear arms," Teitelman wrote. "The categorical and permanent restrictions that section 571.070.1 places on the exercise of this fundamental right are too broad to survive strict scrutiny."

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