A best federal criminal lawyer addresses a recent Texas federal district court decision on the federal gun statute, section 922. By way of background, in mid-summer 2022, the United States Supreme Court issued a Second Amendment decision which relied upon an historical analysis in deciding whether a particular New York statute regulating guns was Constitutional. That is the Bruen decision. More recently, subsequent to the Supreme Court’s decision in Bruen, a federal district court judge in Texas applied the Bruen court’s analysis to a particular section of the federal gun statute, 18 U.S.C., section 922(n). Section 922(n) federally criminalizes gun possession by one who is “under Indictment.” As opposed to charges under 922(n), more commonly federal prosecutors bring charges under section 922(g), which makes it a federal crime for a felon to be in possession of a firearm. In any event, in United States v. Quiroz, the federal district court for the Western District of Texas considered whether section 922(n) was Constitutional. The court in Quiroz began its analysis by the citing the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provides that, “[A] well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Quiroz court then noted that, “just last term,” in Bruen, the Supreme Court held, consistent with its prior decisions, “that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.” The Quiroz court further found that, for a gun regulation to be Constitutional, the regulation must be justified “through a historical analysis.” In other words, according to the Quiroz court, based upon Bruen, “the Government’s historical inquiry must show that § 922(n) is consistent with the historical understanding of the Second Amendment.” Therefore, the Quiroz court stated that, “If a challenged regulation addresses a ‘general societal problem that has persisted since the 18th century,’ this historical inquiry is ‘straightforward.'” However, the Quiroz court further stated that “other regulations may require a ‘more nuanced approach.'” In the latter group of cases, “courts can reason by analogy, which involves finding a historical analogue that is ‘relatively similar’ to the modern regulation.” The Quiroz court then laid out section “922(n)’s history.” The Quiroz court found that the history of section 922(n) dated back to Congress’s passage of the Federal Firearms Act (“Act”) back in the 1930’s. That Act only covered persons who were under indictment in federal court an, back then, “crimes of violence” were understood to include “only those offenses ‘ordinarily committed with aid of firearms.'” The Quiroz court found that the legislative history of the Act demonstrated that Congress implemented it to “combat roaming criminals across state lines.” The Quiroz noted that, “[I]n Congress’s eyes, those under indictment for, or convicted of, a crime of violence had already ‘demonstrated their unfitness to be entrusted with such dangerous instrumentalities.'” Decades later, Congress amended the Act to cover anyone under indictment, “regardless of the crime they were accused of.” Years later, in the late 1960’s, Congress expanded firearm regulations to expand the inclusion of anyone under indictment, whether under state or federal law. The Quiroz court found that the history of holding individuals criminally responsible under federal law for possessing a firearm while under indictment was not “longstanding.” The Quiroz court then went on to conduct a further historical analysis of gun laws, going back to the passage of the Second Amendment – and prior thereto. The court found that its review demonstrated that, prior to the Act in 1938, the prohibiting of one from possession a firearm – even one convicted of a violent crime – was “rare.” Accordingly, the Quiroz court concluded that not only was this nation’s “history of disarming felons arguably unclear,” it was not “longstanding.” Consequently, the Quiroz court held that section 922(n) was unconstitutional. In sum, the Quiroz court found that section 922(n), which prohibits those under felony indictment from obtaining or possessing a firearm, did not align with this country’s historical traditions of limiting the possession and use of firearms. Clearly, the Quiroz decision, which only addresses 922(n), will be just the beginning of a tidal wave of motions and decisions addressing whether other sections under 922 are Constitutional.
Written by Michael Leonard
November 2, 2022