Range v. Attorney General United States, No. 21-2835 (3d Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
In 1995, Range pleaded guilty to making false statements about his income to obtain $2,458 of food stamp assistance in violation of Pennsylvania law, a conviction that was classified as a misdemeanor punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. Range was sentenced to three years’ probation, plus restitution, costs, and fines. Three years later, Range attempted to purchase a firearm but was rejected by the instant background check system. Range’s wife subsequently bought him a deer-hunting rifle. Years, later Range learned that he was barred from purchasing and possessing firearms because of his welfare fraud conviction. He sold his rifle to a firearms dealer and sought a declaratory judgment that 18 U.S.C. 922(g) violated the Second Amendment as applied to him. The section prohibits firearm ownership by any person who has been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year—the federal definition of a felony.
The district court rejected the suit, holding that the Second Amendment does not protect “unvirtuous citizens.” The Third Circuit affirmed. Based on history and tradition, “the people” constitutionally entitled to bear arms are “law-abiding, responsible citizens,” a category that properly excludes those who have demonstrated disregard for the rule of law through the commission of felony and felony-equivalent offenses, whether or not those crimes are violent. Even if Range fell within “the people,” the government demonstrated that its prohibition is consistent with historical tradition.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on January 6, 2023.