N.C. Supreme Court Reverses Felony Firearms Act – Rules that 2nd. Amendment Permits Convicted Felons to Possess Gun

 By KIM LAMBERT  For The Record

 According to a ruling Friday, the N.C. Supreme Court has deemed a 2004 law barring convicted felons from possessing a firearm — even in their homes — unconstitutional.

The state’s highest court ruled that the General Assembly went beyond its scope of duties in 2004 when it toughened restrictions on a felon owning guns.

 

The opinion, however, is only applicable to the case of Barney Britt, a convicted felon, whose right to own a gun in pursuit of his passion for hunting was revoked by the 2004 amendment.

 

Friday’s ruling was spearheaded by Justice Edward Thomas Brady who defended the felon’s right to own a gun.

 

According to Mr. Britt’s attorney, Dan Hardway of Angier, the ruling was significant because the N.C. Supreme Court ruled Mr. Britt constitutionally had the right to bear arms, despite restrictions which had been imposed by the state years earlier.

He said North Carolina has become the first state to uphold a convicted felon’s right to bear arms over state officials’ power to regulate gun ownership.

 

The implications from Friday’s ruling could be far-reaching. The decision could encourage more felons to sue for restoration of their Second Amendment right to own firearms.

 

Mr. Britt, 49, a lifelong Wake County resident, loved hunting and continues to hold the record for shooting the third largest deer in North Carolina.

Due to a misstep in judgment 29 years ago, however, Mr. Britt’s hunting was compromised.

 

Convicted on a felony drug charge when he was 20 years old, the avid sportsman was incarcerated for four months and not permitted to carry a gun for five years.

In 1987, Mr. Britt had his right to hunt reinstated after completing his sentence. Over the next 18 years, according to Mr. Hardway, “Mr. Britt was a law-abiding citizen.”

Mr. Hardway said his client “had no criminal charge lodged against him” and had been “gainfully employed since his release of incarceration.”

 

In 2004, however, the General Assembly amended state law, banning felons like Mr. Britt from possessing any type of firearm except for “antique weapons.”

The amended ruling was a slight departure from previous state law allowing felons to possess guns in their own homes or businesses “under particular circumstances.”

Mr. Britt had said, “I feel like I’m being violated and punished all over again.”

There was no appeals process, so he, under advisement from Mr. Hardway, sued the state to regain his Second Amendment right to hunt.

 

Mr. Britt challenged the constitutionality of the 2004 amendment, claiming it amounted to “ex post facto,” a Latin term meaning a retrospective increase in punishment. Mr. Hardway argued the amendment five years ago “deprived his client of his formerly restored right, punishing him for conduct that was previously not criminal.”

In the legal brief, Mr. Britt, as plaintiff, said the 2004 application of N.C. Gen. Statute § 14-415.1 “violated his right to due process, equal protection under state and federal constitutions and his Second Amendment right to bear arms.”

 

Justice Patricia TimmonsGoodson said, in a dissenting opinion, the decision could encourage challenges against state bans on felons and the insane owning firearms

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