Strides Made in PA on Gun Rights for Convicts

      PHILADELPHIA (CN) – A man with a past conviction for a nonviolent misdemeanor was improperly kept from buying guns for self-defense, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
     U.S. District Judge James Gardner granted partial summary judgment to Daniel Binderup, whose 1998 consensual sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl when he was 41 left him with a conviction in Pennsylvania for corruption of minors. Binderup said he served three years of probation, paid a $1,425 fine, reconciled with his wife and has not been convicted of violating any laws since.
     Nevertheless Section 922(g)(1) of Title 18 prohibits him from owning a firearm because the crime for which he was convicted was punishable by up to five years in prison.
     Binderup challenged the law’s constitutionality in a 2013 lawsuit against the U.S. attorney general and director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
     Judge Gardner found Thursday that, while the government’s interpretation of the five-year clause is correct since the state statute allows for such a sentence, it is unconstitutional as applied to Binderup.
     The 86-page ruling relies on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions that struck down handgun bans, District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago.
     Binderup’s crime was not statutory rape nor was it predatory, and Gardner found that the plaintiff does not pose any significant risk of recidivism. As such, any prohibition on his gun ownership a violation of Second Amendment rights, according to the ruling.
     Pennsylvania itself bars any person with a corrupting minors conviction from owning a firearm, but Binderup had his ownership rights reinstated in the commonwealth by petitioning for removal of disqualification in 2009 under a Pennsylvania law. Binderup did not challenge the constitutionality of the state statute.
     The U.S. Supreme Court has never explicitly ruled that laws against criminals owning guns apply only to those convicted of violent crimes.
     Binderup’s case is the first brought by a person convicted of a misdemeanor challenging the applicability of the federal statute on constitutional grounds.
     Judge Gardner granted the government’s motion that the federal provision correctly interpreted the Pennsylvania state statute as allowing for punishment of up to five years in prison. Binderup had argued that the interpretation did not apply given his probationary sentence.

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