U.S. Supreme Court

May a felon sell rather than give up his guns? SCOTUS accepts case

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider whether a felon may obtain a court order to sell the guns he gave up to the government before his conviction.

Courts are split on the issue, according to the cert petition (PDF) filed on behalf of Tony Henderson, a former U.S. Border Patrol agent who pleaded guilty to marijuana charges and was sentenced to six months in jail. The Associated Press, the Hill and Reuters have stories on the case, while SCOTUSblog links to court documents.

The case pits property rights against gun regulations, the Hill says.

Henderson was banned from owning guns as a result of his conviction, though he didn’t use the firearms in his crime. The FBI refused to transfer his 15 personal weapons to a third party who purchased them, and the courts below refused to order a transfer.

Henderson’s case was governed by precedent in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that says allowing a felon to transfer guns is tantamount to giving him constructive possession of the weapons in violation of the law. U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 3rd, 6th and 8th Circuits are in accord, the cert petition says. But three other appeals courts reject that position, reasoning that the guns can be transferred because the felon has an interest in the firearms apart from a possessory interest.

The case is Henderson v. United States.

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