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Media Alerts - Schrader v. Holder - D.C. Circuit
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January 11, 2013
  Schrader v. Holder - D.C. Circuit
Headline: D.C. Circuit rejects statutory and facial Second Amendment challenge by person convicted of a common-law misdemeanor to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)'s lifetime ban on firearm possession.

Area of Law: Second Amendment, federal firearms legislation

Issue(s) Presented: Whether the lifetime firearm disability imposed on persons convicted of a state common-law misdemeanor punishable by over two years' imprisonment is consistent with 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and the Second Amendment.

Brief Summary: Schrader was convicted in 1968 of a common-law misdemeanor in Maryland and fined $100. At the time, Maryland had no maximum sentence for misdemeanor assault. In 2008, Schrader unsuccessfully sought to obtain a handgun for self-defense. His attempt was denied under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) because of his conviction of a state misdemeanor punishable by a term of imprisonment of more than two years. Schrader and the Second Amendment Foundation filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia claiming [1] that the firearms disability of § 922(g)(1) was not applicable to common-law misdemeanor offenses and [2] that the Second Amendment prevented the government from creating a firearms disability for conviction of a common-law misdemeanor. The district court granted the government's motion to dismiss, and the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed.

Significance (if any): The court employed intermediate scrutiny to plaintiffs' Second Amendment claim after concluding that common-law misdemeanants were outside the class of law-abiding and responsible citizens primarily protected by the Second Amendment.

Extended Summary (if applicable): Looking first to the statutory question, the D.C. Circuit found that many common-law crimes existed when Congress originally enacted § 922(g)(1) in 1968. Noting that the federal firearms ban expressly applied to "assault with a dangerous weapon," a crime that in Maryland was a common-law misdemeanor in 1968, the court "doubt[ed] very much" that Congress had intended to exclude common-law offenses. The court also reasoned that the statutory term "punishable" referred to the capability of punishment, not to a punishment specified by statute, and noted that other circuits were in accord. Finally, the court rejected plaintiffs' argument that Congress had intended only to include a special category of misdemeanor convictions within the firearms disability because Congress had expressly identified all misdemeanors punishable by more than two years' imprisonment.

Turning to plaintiffs' facial Second Amendment challenge, the court noted that the right guaranteed under the Constitution "is not unlimited" and that the Supreme Court had observed in Heller that nothing in its opinion "should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons." The court employed intermediate scrutiny because common-law misdemeanants as a class are not law-abiding, responsible citizens whose core rights the Second Amendment protects. The court determined that the statute's objective of suppressing armed violence is "without doubt" important and that the government had carried its burden of demonstrating a substantial relationship between crime prevention and the challenged regulation. The court rejected plaintiffs' attempt to make as-applied arguments because plaintiffs had not presented such arguments to the district court.

For the full text of the opinion, please visit

Panel (if known): Tatel, Williams, and Randolph

Argument (if known): October 10, 2012

Date of Issued Opinion: January 11, 2013

Docket Number: No. 11-5352

Decided: Affirmed.

Case Alert Author: Beske/Weistling

Counsel (if known): Alan Gura and Thomas M. Huff for appellants. Anisha S. Dasgupta, Stuart F. Delery, Ronald C. Machen, Jr., Michael S. Raab, Jane M. Lyons, and R. Craig Lawrence for appellees.

Author of Opinion: Tatel

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Beske/Weistling

    Posted By: Elizabeth Beske @ 01/11/2013 02:23 PM     DC Circuit  

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