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What does violent mean in the context of felons possessing guns

 

If you are convicted of a felony in Missouri, you will lose certain rights after your conviction. These are referred to as "civil disabilities" and some of these disabilities will continue after you released from jail. For instance, you can never serve on a jury due to your conviction.

The loss of the right to possess a gun as a convicted felon is one of the more significant disabilities and a group of men are suing the State of Missouri, claiming that a newly passed amendment to the Missouri Constitution makes the state law prohibiting possession unconstitutional.

 

Prosecutors are concerned that this case could allow, "gang members, drug dealers, domestic abusers and other criminals a right to carry guns." The attorneys suing on behalf of the men argue that the constitutional amendment overrides the statute, and the state has not shown a "compelling interest" in regulating all felons possessing firearms.

The state claims that felons pose a greater danger to public safety and warrant the restriction. However, under the strict scrutiny that the law is subject to, the state must prove that it is constitutional, and not merely that in some cases it could be viewed as constitutional.

Because a few felons are violent and may reoffend with a firearm might not be sufficient to survive a strict scrutiny challenge. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled this year that the previous statute was constitutional, but that was before the amendment had been enacted.

The uncertainty with the law has led to some prosecutions being placed on hold until the Supreme Court issues its ruling. The law prohibits all felons from possessing firearms while the amendment allows the state to prohibit "violent felons" from having guns.

The issue may come down to determining what "violent" means in this context. But the Court must be careful as such definitions could be used in other cases and lead to other unintended consequences.

Source: kansascity.com, "Missouri Supreme Court again considers whether convicted felons can possess guns," Tony Rizzo, November 2, 2015

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