October 19, 2021
The U.S. Supreme Court has once again turned down the opportunity to decide whether state laws requiring a lifetime ban on gun ownership for people convicted of nonviolent felonies are constitutional under the Second Amendment.
Earlier this month, justices on the high court refused to hear the case of Leevan Roundtree, a Wisconsin man who pleaded guilty in 2003 to not paying child support for four or more months. In 2015, 12 years after the conviction, police serving a warrant found a revolver in his home and he was charged with possessing a firearm despite a prior felony conviction. After pleading guilty and receiving an 18-month sentence, Roundtree appealed.
Roundtree’s attorney argued that Wisconsin’s law placing a lifetime ban on gun ownership by all convicted felons, regardless of their crime, was unjust and violated the Second Amendment. When the case went before the Wisconsin Supreme Court in January, justices ruled 5-2 against Roundtree, stating, “The legislature did not in Wis. Stat. 941.29 create a hierarchy of felonies, and neither will this court.”
However, two dissenting justices on that court held a markedly different view, as seen in their written dissents.
“Under the majority's vision of what is good for society, ‘even if a felon has not exhibited signs of physical violence, it is reasonable for the State to want to keep firearms out of the hands of those who have shown a willingness to ... break the law,’” wrote Justice Rebecca Bradley. “It may be ‘reasonable’ to the majority but it surely isn't constitutional.
“Permitting restraints on the right to keep and bear arms that were never contemplated by the Framers lends an illimitable quality to the legislative power to regulate a fundamental right, thereby deflating the primacy of the Constitution and imperiling the liberty of the people.”
Justice Brian Hagedorn also wrote a lengthy dissent, stating among other things, “To be sure, felon-dispossession laws have been on the books for some time. But these laws are of 20th-century vintage; they do not date back to the 18th or 19th centuries—the relevant time periods when the Second Amendment was ensconced as an individual constitutional right.”
Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court is gaining a reputation for tolerating injustice by ignoring important issues like restoration of rights for nonviolent felons who, in some states, are forbidden to practice their Second Amendment rights. In mid-April, the high court declined to take up three such challenges, letting stand lower court rulings that prohibited people convicted of driving under the influence, selling counterfeit cassette tapes and making false statements on tax returns from ever owning a firearm again.
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for more than 20 years.