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The AP reports that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from one Cedrick B. Alderman. “Alderman was convicted of armed robbery in 1999. Police caught him with a bulletproof vest in 2005, and he was sentenced to prison for 18 months. Alderman challenged the law, saying it exceeded Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce under the Commerce Clause.” That’s odd . . .

‘Cause 18 U.S.C. § 931: US Code – Section 931: Prohibition on purchase, ownership, or possession of body armor by violent felons prevents the purchase, ownership of body armor by violent felons (unless they’re hired as security guards or suchlike). In general. Anti-ballistic vesting is also illegal in many states.

Maybe the law was amended in 2006 to stop that plug interstate loophole. But what do I know? And why am I the only media guy who links to the actual decision?

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  1. I’d love to test any of my 500’s on this vest. I would really like to see how it holds up to my 700 grain T-REX THUMPER from ranger rick.

  2. There really wasn’t an opinion, only a dissent. A majority of the Supremes voted not to hear the case, while Thomas and Scalia wanted to. The denial of certiorari is not an approval of the decision of the court below. Likewise, Thomas’ dissent isn’t law. In fact, we can’t presume that he would vote in any particular way had the case been accepted.

    The problem with Commerce Clause jurisprudence is that there isn’t much that doesn’t meet the Lopez criteria, especially the part about “substantially affecting” interstate commerce. That’s why Montana’s Firearms Freedom Act and others like it are unlikely to withstand a Commerce Clause attack.

    • Tough room. Headline amended. Ralph. But where’s the bit in the law about not buying a vest transported across state lines?

      • There isn’t, but there is a provision in Federal law that criminalizes the mere possession of a vest by certain convicted felons. The question was whether the Feds had the power — call it jurisdiction — to enact that law, since the Federal government can’t outlaw anything unless they have jurisdiction over it in the first place. The Feds have jurisdiction, and ultimate power, over everything in interstate commerce. Hence, the importance of the lower court law finding the Feds acted within its Commerce Clause powers. In theory, the Feds could outlaw french fries. Thomas and Scalia wanted to reexamine the scope of the Commerce Clause, but the rest of the Court declined. My take: this was just the “wrong” case to reopen the heart of Federal jurisdiction.

  3. Robert: Ralph beat me to it. Remember that the Federal government is (in theory) a government of specified and limited powers. Unlike State governments (which can outlaw just about anything they want to under their General Police Power) the Feds can’t outlaw or regulate something unless there’s a a part of the Constitution that says it can (that’s what the 10th Amendment is all about.) The Commerce Clause has been used as the catch-all for years, and the Courts have basically allowed Congress to do this because of the idea of holding the broadest possible connotation of the Commerce Clause.

    There’s a lot of Commerce Clause debating on the intertubes, but most of it is geared towards legal geeks.


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