Justice Department to Challenge Ruling on Rights of Illegals to Possess Firearms

by Tommy Grant

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Politics, and now court rulings, it seems certainly make for strange bedfellows. In a move most conservatives and pro-gun organizations likely agree with, Biden’s Justice Department will challenge a recent court decision affirming the Second Amendment rights of undocumented immigrants. This move escalates a complex debate that to many Americans on both sides of the gun issue defies logic, while spotlighting two cases that have the potential to reshape long-standing federal firearm regulations and even other aspects of immigration law.

The Washington Times reports at the heart of the controversy is a ruling by Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman, who last month dismissed charges against Heriberto Carbajal-Flores, an undocumented immigrant caught firing at vehicles in Chicago’s Little Village. Citing a pivotal 2022 Supreme Court decision, Judge Coleman concluded that the federal ban on gun possession by people in the U.S. illegally could not stand, marking a significant pivot from traditional interpretations of gun control

“This Court finds that, as applied to Carbajal-Flores, Section 922(g)(5) is unconstitutional,” she stated, emphasizing that Carbajal-Flores’ lack of a violent criminal record rendered him undeserving of losing his Second Amendment rights.

The Justice Department’s decision to appeal this ruling underscores the case’s gravity.

“It can be a highly impactful ruling and I’m sure the government has a significant interest in wanting to get a ruling that maintains the integrity of the federal firearms regulation system,” noted Pratheepan Gulasekaram, a law professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, in the Times article. This appeal signals the government’s determination to uphold existing restrictions categorizing undocumented immigrants as “prohibited purchasers” alongside felons and drug users and even Americans dishonorably discharged from the military.

There are currently 11 automatic disqualifiers on the Federal Form 4473 Firearms Transaction Record that must be completed before any firearms purchase at an FFL. Question 21.l. specifically asks, “Are you an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States?” A “yes” answer legally precludes the buyer from completing the purchase. But the judge’s ruling could upend all of that.

The legal landscape has been notably altered by the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision, which dismantled a state law limiting concealed-carry permits and set new standards for evaluating firearm restrictions. Justice Clarence Thomas in Bruen emphasized that firearms restrictions must align with historical precedents from the time of the Second Amendment’s drafting and ratification.

The Carbajal-Flores and another case from Texas, involving Antonio Sing-Ledezma, are pioneering challenges that scrutinize gun regulation through the lens of Bruen’s methodology. They question whether noncitizens should be treated differently under the Second Amendment, potentially leading to a “two-tier constitutional system,” as Gulasekaram warns. Such a design could have far-reaching implications for immigrants’ rights and the future of the United States as well.

These cases do not stand alone but are part of a broader wave of litigation testing the limits of gun control laws post-Bruen. High-profile challenges include disputes over prohibitions for drug users and domestic violence suspects, as well as state bans on high-capacity magazines and certain semiautomatic rifles. The outcomes of these cases could significantly impact America’s legal landscape regarding who can legally possess firearms and has reshaped the legal arguments in ways even pro-gun supporters could not have imagined when Bruen effectively struck down a number of anti-Second Amendment laws on the books.

The Times article noted critics like Aidan Johnston, director of federal affairs at Gun Owners of America, argue that undocumented immigrants do not constitute part of “the people” protected by the Second Amendment. Conversely, scholars like Gulasekaram see no constitutional basis for excluding noncitizens from these rights, suggesting that doing so would erode the egalitarian foundations of American law.

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Read the full article here

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