General Crime

Court Upholds Law Barring Domestic Violence Offenders From Owning Guns

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A federal law that imposes a lifetime ban on gun possession by people convicted of domestic violence has been upheld by a federal appeals court in San Francisco. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made the ruling Monday in a challenge by a San Diego County man, Daniel Chovan, who was convicted in state court of misdemeanor domestic violence against his then-girlfriend in 1996. Chovan contended that the lifetime ban violated his constitutional Second Amendment right to bear arms. He appealed after being prosecuted in federal court in San Diego in 2010 for illegally possessing guns.

FBI agents had found four guns and 532 rounds of ammunition at his house and learned he had allegedly threatened to hunt down and shoot his estranged wife if she left him. Chovan pleaded guilty to the gun possession charge and was sentenced to five years’ probation, but reserved the right to appeal. His appeal centered on a landmark ruling in which the U.S. Supreme Court said in 2008 that the Second Amendment right to possess guns applies to individuals as well as state militias.

But the appeals court noted that the Supreme Court said in that decision that the right was “not unlimited” and that it applied to “law-abiding, responsible citizens.” Circuit Judge Harry Pregerson wrote in the court’s lead opinion that Congress had a legitimate reason for enacting the ban because it was “substantially related to the important government interest of preventing domestic gun violence.” All three members of an appeals court panel upheld Chovan’s conviction, but Judge Carlos Bea wrote a concurring opinion using different reasoning.

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