Case Information: Sessions v. Binderup et al., No. 16-847 (U.S. Supreme Court brief filed Feb. 3, 2017).
At Issue: This case involves a Second Amendment challenge to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), the federal law prohibiting gun ownership by people convicted of felonies punishable by more than 1 year in prison, or misdemeanors punishable by more than 2 years in prison. A majority of Third Circuit judges, sitting en banc, agreed that § 922(g)(1) is unconstitutional as applied to Daniel Binderup (who was convicted of corrupting a minor), and Julio Suarez (who was convicted of carrying an unlicensed handgun). However, the judges in the majority agreed only on the outcome — that Binderup and Suarez should be allowed to obtain firearms. The judges were divided on the proper methodology to evaluate “as-applied challenges” like Binderup and Suarez’s. In January, the U.S. Solicitor General’s office filed a petition for writ of certiorari, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal from the Third Circuit’s decision.
The Law Center’s Brief: We filed an amicus brief in support of the Solicitor General’s petition for certiorari. Our brief explains that the Third Circuit’s ruling invalidates § 922(g)(1) in many of its applications, and will allow dangerous felons to acquire firearms, contravening Congress’s intent to prohibit all criminals who committed crimes with at least the specified maximum sentence from acquiring firearms. We also argue that the Third Circuit’s decision will create administrative burdens that undermine the efficacy of § 922(g)(1). Further, we explain that the Third Circuit’s opinion directly conflicts with the Supreme Court’s statement in Heller that it was not intending to disturb longstanding laws prohibiting gun possession by felons. Finally, we explain that the Supreme Court’s intervention is necessary because there is a division in the federal appellate courts on the permissibility of as-applied challenges to § 922(g)(1).