The Federal Law That Makes Millions Prohibited Persons Belongs in the Dustbin of Legal History

larry vickers

The law that bans (Larry Vickers) from touching a gun is 18 USC § 922(g). You can think of this law enumerating all the different types of prohibited person as a time capsule from 1968, the year of the law’s passage. That Congress, unknowingly at the high-water mark of federal erasure of gun rights, thought that the following people, among others, should go to prison for ten years for touching a gun:

    1. Anyone “who has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year”.
    2. Anyone “who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance”. Addiction is undefined, as is the question of whether the unlawful use happened one day, one year, or one decade ago.
    3. Anyone “who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution”.
    4. Anyone “who, having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced his citizenship”.
    5. Anyone “who, being an alien— (A)is illegally or unlawfully in the United States; or (B) except as provided in subsection (y)(2), has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa (as that term is defined in section 101(a)(26) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(26)))”.

Some notes on the first and last of those.

For #1: the prohibition on convicted felons is remarkably broad. The nature, seriousness, or date of the crime don’t matter — the ban is lifelong no matter what. It’s also often used as a sword of Damocles that hangs over a convict, forever ready to drop the moment that a prosecutor decides that would be convenient. …

For #5: the breadth of the prohibition on people with nonimmigrant visas is also really underdiscussed. Some examples of people in the US on nonimmigrant visas: international college students, all workers on H-1B visas, and most tourists. Gun “possession” is a strict definition under this law. It includes handling a gun or ammo even for a few minutes without firing, even in the owner’s presence.

— Open Source Defense in The Floor is Lava

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