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March 24, 2008

SCOTUS takes new gun case ... is this a Heller tea leaf?

I am sure regular readers are tired of me linking the Heller Second Amendment case to various sentencing issues, but a new Supreme Court cert. grant today is only going to fuel my gun fires.  Here are the basics from this post at SCOTUSblog:

In the second grant Monday, the Court agreed to hear a Justice Department appeal in U.S. v. Hayes (07-608), urging it to clarify the federal law that makes it a crime to have a gun after being convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.  The specific issue is whether the federal ban at issue requires that the convicted individual and the victim in the underlying crime have a domestic relationship — that is, as a spouse, parent or guardian.

Though it appears that Hayes is only about a technical statutory issue, the case could end up being about a lot more if Heller declares that there is an enforceable individual right to keep a gun.  Here are the key facts in Hayes from the Fourth Circuit opinion on which cert was sought by the Justice Department:

In 1994, [Randy Edward] Hayes pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor battery offense under West Virginia law, in the magistrate court of Marion County, West Virginia (the "1994 State Offense").  The victim of the 1994 State Offense was Hayes's then wife, Mary Ann (now Mary Carnes), with whom he lived and had a child. As a result of the 1994 State Offense, Hayes was sentenced to a year of probation.

Ten years later, on July 25, 2004, the authorities in Marion County were summoned to Hayes's home in response to a domestic violence 911 call.  When police officers arrived at Hayes's home, he consented to a search thereof, and a Winchester rifle was discovered.  Hayes was arrested and, on January 4, 2005, indicted in federal court on three charges of possessing firearms after having been convicted of an MCDV, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(9) and 924(a)(2).

This fascinating little case should help everyone understand why Solicitor General Paul Clement is justifiably concerned about a broad pro-gun constitutional ruling in Heller.  If the Second Amendment truly protects an individual right to domestic self protection, prosecuting Randy Edward Hayes for having a Winchester in his home seems very constitutionally troublesome.  And, at the very least, if Heller says anything nice about the constitution and gun possession, the doctrine of constitutional doubt ought to impact how the statutory issue in Hayes plays out.

I wonder if the NRA will file a brief on behalf of Randy Edward Hayes in the Supreme Court.  I wonder if VP Dick Cheney will sign a brief including members of Congress on behalf of Randy Edward Hayes in the Supreme Court.  I wonder if any other bloggers will connect the dots between Heller and Hayes like I do.  I wonder if everyone just thinks I'm just a gun-crazy, latte-sipping blogger.

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March 24, 2008 at 11:21 AM | Permalink


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