Washington, D.C. – The nation’s highest court will hear the Bean case on Wednesday, October 16, 2002. This case will decide whether people federally disqualified from firearm possession can ever regain the right to own a firearm through federal means. The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) filed an amicus brief in the case.
“This has all the makings of a blockbuster case,” said Dave LaCourse, Second Amendment Foundation’s (SAF’s) Public Affairs Director who will attend the oral arguments tomorrow. “Mr. Bean is a good person caught in an unjust system who has quietly won his rights back before all four judges who have heard his case. Bean should force the high court into recognizing the need for second chances as the lower courts are divided.”
Mr. Bean’s plight began as he and some friends decided to go to Mexico for dinner. Mr. Bean, who had a federal firearms license (FFL), told his companions to remove any ammunition in the vehicle before crossing the border, but a third party failed to remove a case of shotgun shells. Mr. Bean was arrested and was convicted of a non-violent felony violation of Mexico’s law for possession of ammunition that would be legal for a law-abiding adult to possess in this country. The concerns about this particular case forced the Mexican government to reduce the penalty for this crime from a felony to a misdemeanor–but only after it was too late for Mr. Bean.
Congressional funding bans on Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) monies have prevented the federal restoration of the rights of any persons prohibited from owning firearms. In short, the government claims that Mr. Bean and others like him have no chance for relief. Yet corporation funding is still allowed!
“The lack of funding is creating miscarriages of justice, and that is a perfect reason for the courts use their authority in cases like Bean’s,” said LaCourse. “Nobody is even attempting to claim that Mr. Bean is any threat, yet the Government continues to try to bar the restoration of his firearms rights and his livelihood as well.”
SAF’s brief focused on two crucial areas. First, that despite the funding ban, the federal courts continue to have jurisdiction for review for several reasons. SAF noted that the funding ban is on the ATF, not the Secretary of the Treasury, who has the power over rights restoration. In addition, the brief cites Kitchens v. Department of Treasury (9th Circuit, 1976), where the court noted that District Courts have original jurisdiction to consider the application for relief from disabilities under 28 U.S.C. 1337(a) as a “civil action or proceeding arising under any Act of Congress regulating commerce” since federal gun laws are enacted under interstate commerce powers. The U.S. Supreme Court previously alluded to such relief in Lewis v. U.S. (1980) in footnote 2 of the dissent.
Second, the SAF brief focused on the fact that the fundamental right Mr. Bean is seeking to restore is the individual right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment. Supreme Court cases, Constitutional history and key quotes were all used to support this conclusion. In response, the Government admitted that the Second Amendment is an individual right, but claimed that eliminating all avenues of rights restoration was also constitutional. This is one of first times the federal government has supported the Second Amendment’s individual right to keep & bear arms before the U.S. Supreme Court. See http://www.saf.org/BeanCase.htm for more details.
“Mr. Bean should prevail in his effort to restore his fundamental individual right to own a firearm,” concluded Dave LaCourse. “We also hope the that high court defines the Second Amendment right he seeks to restore.”