FederalGunsJudicialDistrict Court Rules Federal Prohibition on Gun Purchases While Under Felony Indictment Unconstitutional

Pointing to the U.S. Supreme Court's Bruen ruling in June, the Texas federal judge ruled unconstitutional the nationwide prohibition.
September 21, 2022
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A federal prohibition on individuals under felony indictment purchasing firearms abridges the Second Amendment, a U.S. district judge in Texas ruled on Monday.

“The Second Amendment is not a ‘second class right,’” wrote Judge David Counts of the District Court for the Western District of Texas in his opinion. “No longer can courts balance away a constitutional right. After Bruen, the Government must prove that laws regulating conduct covered by the Second Amendment’s plain text align with this Nation’s historical tradition. The Government does not meet that burden.”

In one of this year’s landmark opinions, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen that when restrictions are placed on gun ownership, governments must prove that “proper cause exists” to overrule Second Amendment rights.

At the center of the case is Jose Gomez Quiroz, who was indicted in 2020 for burglary, a second-degree felony. Quiroz was indicted on another felony charge for failing to appear at his hearing. Before adjudication on either charge, Quiroz tried to purchase an M1911 pistol — at which point he falsely stated he was not under felony indictment on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives paperwork.

After the federal background check revealed he was under felony indictment, Quiroz was indicted again with two charges related to the illegal purchase and was convicted by a jury — coincidentally on the same day as the release of Bruen, June 23.

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Quiroz appealed the conviction after Bruen dropped, alleging that the law is flatly unconstitutional. In ruling the prohibition itself unconstitutional, Counts stated that Quiroz’s “false statement during the purchase of the firearm is immaterial.”

“Although not exhaustive, the Court’s historical survey finds little evidence that — which prohibits those under felony indictment from obtaining a firearm — aligns with this Nation’s historical tradition.”

Pointing to Bruen, Counts decided the Federal Firearm Act’s prohibition violated the spirit of that ruling which, as he assessed, left open many unanswered questions about firearm regulation.

“This Court faces a predicament similar to Plato’s allegory of the cave. There are the known knowns: a defendant was convicted of buying a gun while under indictment… The known unknowns: whether a statute preventing a person under indictment from receiving a firearm aligns with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation. And the unknown unknowns: the constitutionality of firearm regulations in a post-Bruen world.”

Going forward, Counts tasked other courts with assessing firearm regulations through Bruen’s framework: first, analyzing its congruence with historical analysis of the Second Amendment, and second, assessing the severity of a law’s burden on gun rights.

The ruling may now be appealed to a higher court.

A copy of the court ruling can be found below.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.