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Firearm Ban After Assault Left Intact by U.S. High Court

Semi-Automatic Assault Rifle
The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly turned away gun-rights appeals in the last three years. The court hasn’t considered a Second Amendment case since 2010. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up a new gun-rights case, turning away an appeal from a man barred from owning a firearm because of a misdemeanor assault conviction 45 years ago.

The appeal by Jefferson Wayne Schrader contended that the ban violated the Constitution’s Second Amendment, which protects the right to bear arms.

The justices have repeatedly turned away gun-rights appeals in the last three years. The court hasn’t considered a Second Amendment case since 2010, when it said people have a right to have a handgun in the home for self-defense purposes.

Schrader was convicted of misdemeanor assault and battery after getting into a fistfight with a gang member in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1968. He received a $100 fine and no jail time. Since then, he says, he served in Vietnam, received an honorable discharge from the Navy and has had no meaningful encounters with law enforcement in the last 45 years.

Schrader sued after he failed federal background checks while trying to acquire a shotgun and a handgun in 2008. The Bellevue, Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation joined Schrader in pressing the suit.

Federal law bars firearms possession by people convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year in prison, or more than two years if the crime is a misdemeanor.

A federal appeals court in Washington unanimously said that provision applied to Schrader because Maryland law doesn’t specify a maximum penalty for assault.

The three-judge panel said the firearm ban didn’t violate the Second Amendment, even though Schrader “may well” present no risk.

“Congress is not limited to case-by-case exclusions of persons who have been shown to be untrustworthy with weapons,” Judge David Tatel wrote for the panel.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the Constitution protects individual gun rights. The majority said that nothing in the ruling “should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons.”

The case is Schrader v. Holder, 12-1443.

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