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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Nonviolent Felon Brings Gun Rights Class Action

LAS VEGAS (CN) - The federal government violates the Second Amendment rights of nonviolent felons by misconstruing gun regulations, a Nevada man claims in a federal class action.

Barry Michaels says he was convicted of a nonviolent felony and completed his sentence more than five years ago, hasn't committed any crimes since, isn't a fugitive from justice, and meets all conditions for owning a firearm.

But Michaels says he hasn't bought a gun because he fears criminal prosecution, which he claims deprives him of his Second Amendment rights.

He sued U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Thomas Brandon, head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, on March 15, claiming they unconstitutionally apply section 18 of the Gun Control Act of 1968. Michaels says the law does not prevent law-abiding citizens from buying and owning firearms and ammunition.

The act is only intended to prevent violent criminals from owning firearms, according to Michaels' lawsuit, and his conviction was for a nonviolent felony.

Michaels says federal prosecutors would put him in prison if he obtained a firearm.

The lawsuit's proposed class is comprised of all U.S. citizens convicted of nonviolent felonies and who completed their sentences more than five years ago, committed no crimes since, are not fugitives from justice, were not dishonorably discharged from the military, are not addicted to drugs or adjudicated mentally ill, are not on parole or probation, are subject to indictments or restraining orders, and want to buy firearms but don't due to fear of criminal prosecution.

Michaels poses several questions in his complaint, including whether current enforcement of the Gun Control Act "amounts to legislative determination of guilt" in violation of the U.S. Constitution, and whether it violates Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment and Fifth Amendment due process rights.

Michaels also wants the Nevada Federal Court to determine whether nonviolent felons are entitled to the "same presumption of being 'law-abiding citizens'" as ordinary citizens, and if there is any basis for concluding that citizens convicted of nonviolent felonies and who have been crime-free for five years would become a violent offender if allowed to own a firearm.

Without such a basis, Michaels says it's a violation of civil rights to prosecute him and other class members for owning firearms. He wants the court to declare the proposed class is law-abiding and can exercise their Second Amendment rights.

Class attorney Michael Zapin of Boca Raton, Fla., was not immediately available by telephone on Friday.

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