Wednesday, January 18, 2012
U.S. High Court Turns Down Challenge to Gun Ban
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday turned down a constitutional challenge to a California law banning possession of firearms by persons convicted of certain misdemeanors.
The justices, without comment, denied a petition for certiorari by Rick Charles Delacy, convicted on four counts of unlawful possession of firearms and one count of unlawful possession of ammunition.
Delacy had claimed that the ban violates the Second Amendment and/or the Equal Protection Clause. Div. One of the First District Court of Appeal rejected that argument in a 2-1 decision last February, and the California Supreme Court voted 5-1 in June not to review that decision.
Only Justice Joyce L. Kennard voted to grant review.
Prosecutors charged Delacy, as a result of two separate incidents, with violating laws prohibiting possession of firearms or ammunition by persons convicted of battery within the previous 10 years or by persons released on bail. He was also charged with receiving stolen property.
The guns and ammunition were found during two probation searches of defendant’s home in April and October 2008. The first search resulted in the seizure of four firearms, at which time the defendant told officers “They’re ain’t nothing wrong with me having guns.”
The second search produced shotgun shells, which were kept in a bag in the defendant’s bedroom closet, and in his garage. Delacy later testified he used the weapons and ammunition for hunting.
The defense moved to dismiss the charges based on District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) 554 U.S. 570, in which the Supreme Court held that citizens have an individual right to possess firearms. Napa Superior Court Judge Diane M. Price denied the motion, citing People v. Flores (2008) 169 Cal.App.4th 568, in which the court rejected a post-Heller challenge to the law banning persons convicted of violent misdemeanors from possessing firearms for 10 years.
The ammunition charge was tried to a jury, which found the defendant guilty and sustained the enhancement allegation that he was on bail as a result of the first arrest at the time of the offense. The same jury found him not guilty of receiving stolen property.
The parties waived jury trial on the gun charges, and the judge found the defendant guilty. She placed him on three years’ probation on all charges.
Justice Sandra Margulies, writing for the Court of Appeal, rejected the defense argument that—as a result of Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago  130 S.Ct. 3020, which held that the individual right is fundamental and applies to the states—restrictions on firearm possession are now subject to strict scrutiny.
While broad restrictions might be judged under a stricter standard, Margulies wrote, Heller makes clear that courts will continue to apply rational-basis review to laws barring possession by “disqualified” persons, including misdemeanants and those on pretrial release.
Courts in a number of jurisdictions, she noted, have upheld laws banning possession of firearms by persons convicted of various crimes, including misdemeanors, as well as laws banning carrying of concealed firearms, possession of guns with obliterated serial numbers, and possession by persons who are subject to domestic violence restraining orders.
Margulies also rejected the argument that California violates the Equal Protection Clause by prohibiting gun possession by persons convicted of certain misdemeanors in the state, while placing no such prohibition against those convicted of similar crimes in other states.
The Legislature, she could, could rationally have determined that it is too difficult to establish a test for determining when an out-of-state misdemeanor is equivalent to one of the California misdemeanors which disqualify a defendant from being allowed to possess a firearm.
Justice Kathleen Banke concurred in the opinion, but dissenting Justice Robert Dondero argued that the statute violates the Equal Protection Clause.
The dissenting justice argued that after Heller and McDonald, firearms restrictions must be given intermediate scrutiny. He also argued that in this case, even the rational basis test does not save the statute, because “[g]eography does not determine dangerousness or likelihood of felonious behavior.”
Attorneys who briefed the case to the Supreme Court were C.D. Michel of Michel & Associates PC in Long Beach for Delacy and Supervising Deputy Attorney General Laurence K. Sullivan for the state. The California Rifle and Pistol Association filed an amicus brief supporting Delacy.
In other news, the justices declined to review a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision allowing the prosecution of former Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., on fraud, money laundering, extortion and other charges. Renzi, who has denied the charges, contended that the Constitution’s Speech and Debate Clause bars prosecution because the alleged crimes were “legislative acts,” and took an interlocutory appeal after the argument was rejected by the district judge.
The indictment alleges that Renzi offered to support legislation benefiting two persons if those individuals would buy land from a former business partner, who would then use the money to pay a debt owned to Renzi. Renzi served in the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2009. The purported legislation was never enacted.
He announced that he would not run for re-election shortly after news accounts of the federal investigation were published.
The House of Representatives and its Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group filed amicus briefs supporting Renzi in the Ninth Circuit, and the BLAG filed a brief in the Supreme Court as well. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a brief in the Ninth Circuit supporting the prosecution.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company