Missouri Supreme Court: Non-Violent Offenders Convicted Before 2014 Don’t Get Gun Rights Restored

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Missouri Supreme Court (courtesy schoenenbergtierney.com)

In 1973, William David Hill plead guilty to a forgery charge. His rights were restored after he finished his probation in 1975 — save his right to keep and bear arms. This despite the 2014 Amendment 5 to Article 1, Section 23 of the Missouri state constitution that grants power to the state to strip the right to keep and bear arms from violent felons, but does not give the state power to remove the right to bear arms from non-violent felons. The court ruled that since Mr. Hill had no right to conceal carry in 1975, he had no right to conceal carry in 2014. Here is the applicable wording of Article I, Section 23, as amended by Amendment 5 . . .

Text of Section 23:

Right to Keep and Bear Arms–Exception

That the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms, ammunition, and accessories typical to the normal function of such arms, in defense of his home, person, family and property, or when lawfully summoned in aid of the civil power, shall not be questioned. The rights guaranteed by this section shall be unalienable. Any restriction on these rights shall be subject to strict scrutiny and the state of Missouri shall be obligated to uphold these rights and shall under no circumstances decline to protect against their infringement. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the general assembly from enacting general laws which limit the rights of convicted violent felons or those duly adjudged mentally infirm by a court of competent jurisdiction.

Again, Mr. Hill’s case was initially adjudicated before Amendment 5 went into effect. From the Missouri Supreme Court(pdf):

The Missouri Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the provisions of the Constitutional amendment put in place by Amendment 5 to Article 1, Section 23, only apply to actions that have occurred after the passage of the amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Constitutional provisions apply retrospectively; but that is on case law, not on a Constitutional amendment.

The Missouri Supreme Court first ruled this way in State v. Merritt in 2015. From the Missouri Supreme Court(pdf):

The trial court’s judgment was entered in April 2014. Article I, section 23 was amended in August 2014. This Court has previously determined that the August 2014 amendment to article I, section 23 applies prospectively only. State v. Merritt, 467 S.W.3d 808, 812 (Mo. banc 2015). Therefore, the August 2014 amendment to article I, section 23 does not apply to this case. Mr. Hill’s first and second points are denied.

In the second set of cases, the defendants were convicted of non-violent offenses before Amendment 5 became effective. They were charged with felon in possession of firearms before Amendment 5 was put into place by voters. The Supreme Court of Missouri used the same logic as in State v. Merritt to reverse a lower court’s decision reinstating their gun rights. From Non-Violent Offender SC94936 and SC94989:6(pdf):

This Court reverses. This Court recently held in State v. Merritt, 467 S.W.3d 808 (Mo. banc 2015), and State v. McCoy, 468 S.W.3d 892 (Mo. banc 2015), that article I, section 23 as in effect prior to the 2014 adoption of Amendment 5 did not prohibit the State from regulating the possession of arms by nonviolent felons and that the pre-Amendment 5 version of article I, section 23 applies to crimes committed prior to adoption of that amendment. That ruling directly applies here and requires the judgments to be reversed and the cases to be remanded.

The Missouri Supreme Court has now established that non-violent offenders whose convictions occurred after the right to keep and bear arms was codified into law (August 5, 2014) cannot claim that right. At this point, a legislative fix is the only viable solution.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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  1. avatar Vhyrus says:

    Imagine if the supreme court ruled that the thirteenth amendment only applied to people born after 1864. This is an appalling violation of legislative intent.

    1. avatar Chad A says:

      Really disappointed with my adopted state Missouri… The courts are completely ignoring the intent of the people in the passage of Amendment 5.

      1. avatar neiowa says:

        Put chiks on the bench

        Or libtards that will do any contortions in order to strip gun rights. You can bet that the guy gets his right to vote restored (as 9 out of 10 felons vote demtard).

      2. avatar David J. says:

        I too have made Missouri my adopted home state having been here for 10 years now. I agree with you fully. We voted to amend our State Constitution to allow gun rights to be restored fully to non-violent felons. We will have to pressure the folks in Jeff City to get this fixed!

    2. avatar sagebrushracer says:

      my thoughts exactly.

  2. avatar Stoopid1 says:

    It will take civil war to fix this kind of stoopid.

    1. avatar Jon in CO says:

      Then you’ll be a violent felon. What a catch-22. /sarc

      1. avatar Jack says:

        The winner decides who is a patriot and who is a violent offender.

    2. avatar Stuki Moi says:

      Which means “we” will be Muslims before it gets fixed……

  3. avatar Sian says:

    Are they really arguing that he can’t have a right restored that he didn’t have back when he was convicted? Never mind that he in fact DID have the right, just that it was being unconstitutionally infringed.

    Well the obvious fix is to make sure Amendment 5 is adjusted so it applies retroactively in perpetuity I guess, but jeez. BS like this should not be necessary.

    1. avatar neiowa says:

      Do citzens of Mo get to vote on the retention of judges? Throw the bums out.

      1. avatar Chad A says:

        Good question, wish I knew. Also what was the ratio of the verdict? 7-0?

        1. avatar FedUp says:

          Yes, it was unanimous. The wording of the decision makes me wonder if Hill’s attorney asked the wrong question:

          Mr. Hill had no vested right to a concealed weapon permit. The denial of his application based on his prior guilty plea did not create an unconstitutionally
          retrospective law.
          The judgment is affirmed.
          Richard B. Teitelman, Judge
          All concur.

  4. avatar BDub says:

    Wow! Reversing a decision, not to correct a wrong but to justify and support your current wrong. Just wrong all around.

  5. avatar Jack says:

    And yet, there are a variety of processes, varying from state to state, through which even violent offenders can regain the right to vote. I disagree with the idea that there are a class of people who for whatever reason cannot be trusted to even own a tool for protecting their families, but these same people can somehow be relied on to vote and decide issues that affect me.

  6. avatar Old law Prof says:

    Never trust the courts to be either fair or consistent in gun cases.
    The Black Robbed Aristocracy greatly fears the masses over whom they rule.

    1. avatar Stuki Moi says:

      …..ANY cases.

      As soon as the body of “law” grows too big (probably around the size of Torah/Sharia) and non-obvious to be interpreted the same way by 99% of the populace, the much ballyhooed “Rule of Law” is just shorthand for ‘Rule by the ruling classes who claim a monopoly on “Interpreting” the law.’ No more or less arbitrary than a King’s dictates, IOW.

      1. avatar Rusty Chains says:

        This use to be called the Divine Right of Kings. If you substitute in democrat for king, you get a strong understanding of where that bunch want to take us!

  7. avatar FormerWaterWalker says:

    Wow that’s fooked up! I guess in the Show-Me state they showed him…

  8. avatar Dan says:

    Maybe he should have thought about losing his rights before becoming a criminal.

    1. avatar Vhyrus says:

      I don’t think it’s a stretch to argue that people change, especially over a 40 year period. I can understand barring someone from gun ownership for 5 to 10 years on a non violent felony, but I really doubt a 60 year old guy is going to resume his ‘life of crime’ after being clean for this long.

      You’d be pretty pissed if your insurance company charged you $1200 yearly for a drunk driving charge from 40 years ago, I don’t see this any differently.

  9. avatar Rusty Chains says:

    This is why a liberal should never be appointed to any judicial position. They firmly believe that they are justified to impose new laws because they believe the people and their representatives are incapable of running the country. I would suggest the people of Missouri both rewrite that constitutional amendment and investigate impeachment for the judges that clearly need replacing.

    This does remind me just how important it is that the US Supreme Court appointments not be made by Hillary of Bernie, least we all get the demoshaft.

  10. avatar Ralph says:

    Given the composition of the MO Supreme Court, I’m surprised that Mr. Hill wasn’t summarily castrated.

  11. avatar Mudshark says:

    Another case of gun grab laws. I believe after 10 years and a governors pardon he can have his firearms rights restored. Now all he needs is that governors pardon. Bwahhaha

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