NASHVILLE (CN) - A man who was pardoned after doing 5 years in Georgia for a felony drug crime sued Tennessee, saying it cannot prohibit from owning guns again. "This is no mere theoretical lawsuit," David Blackwell says. "The attorney general of the State of Tennessee has ruled that even full pardons which restore firearm privileges do not operate to remove firearm disabilities."
Blackwell was convicted of felony cocaine sale in Georgia in 1989. He was granted a pardon in 2003.
Four years later, as a registered nurse, he says he "moved to Tennessee with full confidence that Tennessee would extend Full Faith and Credit to his Georgia Pardon."
In his claim in Davidson County Chancery Court, Blackwell says that Article IV of the U.S. Constitution states that "Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state."
Blackwell says he contacted state Rep. Glen Casada, chairman of the state's Republican Caucus. Casada wrote Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper Jr. in July 2009 with four questions:
1. "Can a person who receives a pardon for a felony drug offense purchase a firearm despite the provisions of Tennessee Code?"
2. "If a person were convicted of a felony drug offense in another state, received a full and complete pardon for such offense in such state ... and is permitted to purchase, own and carry a firearm in such state pursuant to the laws of the state, is Tennessee required to give full faith and credit to the legal effect of the pardon where the person now resides in Tennessee?"
3. "If Tennessee has a written reciprocity agreement with another state that has issued a handgun carry permit to a person pardoned for a felony drug offense, is such person who becomes a resident of Tennessee then authorized to receive a handgun carry permit in this state?"
4. "Is there a manner for a person convicted of a felony drug offense in another state, who has subsequently received a full and complete pardon for such felony drug offense (and the pardon affirmatively states there are no firearm disabilities), to legally obtain a firearm and a handgun carry permit in Tennessee?"
Cooper responded that Tennessee does not have to honor Georgia's pardon because the two states do not view pardons in the same manner.
"Full faith and credit does not require Tennessee to afford an out-of-state pardon the same treatment that the issuing state gives it. Since a Tennessee pardon does not obliterate the fact that the conviction occurred," Cooper wrote.
Cooper added that while Tennessee allows some felons to buy and own guns, it does not allow anyone convicted of violent felonies or felony drug offenses to own a handgun.
Cooper's opinion states that long guns are fair game, but Blackwell says Cooper forgot about an amendment that makes all firearms illegal for a person convicted of a drug offense.
"In actuality," his lawsuit states, "the statues recited by the Attorney General had already been amended to prohibit the possession of any firearm (which would include 'long guns') by a person convicted of a drug offense and that a person convicted of any felony could not possess a handgun."
Blackwell says Cooper's opinion violates his right to own a firearm and handgun. He cites the 2nd and 14th Amendments and the Full Faith and Credit provision of the U.S. Constitution.
Blackwell says he got permission from the U.S. Department of Justice to buy firearms before filing suit.
He is represented by David Raybin with Hollins, Raybin & Weissman.
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