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June 27, 2008

Should and will sex offenders support new constitutional challenges to gun registration?

In this post I suggested that, after Heller, DC and other localities might try to regulate guns through the kinds of registration requirements many states have to regulate sex offenders.  However, as detailed in this website detailing a new Second Amendment lawsuit against Chicago's gun regulations, registration requirements for guns that are much less onerous than sex offender registration requirements are already coming under constitutional attack.  Here is a snippet from the press release about the new suit:

Following Thursday’s (5-4) ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects an individual civil right to keep and bear arms, and that a municipal gun ban violates that right, the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and the Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA) filed a federal lawsuit (complaint) challenging the City of Chicago’s long-standing handgun ban....

Attorney Alan Gura, who argued the District of Columbia challenge before the high court, and Chicago area attorney David G. Sigale, represent the plaintiffs. “Our goal,” Gura said “is to require state and local officials to respect our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.  Chicago’s handgun ban, and some of its gun registration requirements, are clearly unconstitutional.”...

Under the gun law currently in place, firearms must be re-registered annually. “Each time,” Gura said, “a tax is imposed, forms must be filled out, photographs submitted.  A person who owns more than one gun will find herself or himself constantly in the process of registering each gun as it comes due for expiration.  If registration is to be required, once is enough.”

I wonder if any groups concerned about the onerous registration requirements imposed on sex offenders will get behind the efforts by gun groups to attack onerous registration requirements imposed on gun owners.  If (when?) gun owner succeed in getting severe registration requirements declared constitutionally unreasonable, then sex offenders may have a much easier time attacking the constitutionality of their registration requirements.

June 27, 2008 at 09:39 AM | Permalink


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While I think the regulations imposed on sex offenders are onerous and often bad public policy, I'm not sure your parallel with firearm registration is apt.

Gun registration is a requirement the state places on innocent, law abiding citizens. Sex offender registration, while surely more onerous, is in most cases a punishment imposed by the criminal law for specific acts. It may also be a condition of parole or probation. Perhaps one could argue that sex offenders on whom the registration requirement was imposed retroactively have some similarities with gun registrants, but it's not clear to me how many such people there are.

Posted by: dm | Jun 27, 2008 10:08:45 AM

I agree with dm in part that the rights at issue are very different. Whereas those opposing gun registries have the legal hook of the 2nd Amendment, sex offenders don't have a clear constitutional right to argue. Further, since Heller oddly carves out felons in possession, that same rationale would certainly extend to sex offenders registering with laws.

dm, as for how many sex offenders on the registry are subject to such restrictions retroactively, the answer is the overwhelming majority of approximately 500,000 persons in the U.S.

Posted by: Corey Yung | Jun 27, 2008 6:41:46 PM

In 1991 I was a young man of 23 and had consensual sex with a 15 y/o who lied to me about her age. I plead guilty to a low misdeameanor which in Virginia did NOT require registration. 17 years later I moved to Mississippi for work. Now Mississippi's laws are retroactive and they are trying to make me register. I have hired an attorney and am fighting the registration; however, in the interim Mississippi has entered me in their sex offender database and suspended my driver's license. The case hasn't even been before the court yet but they still list me as a sex offender and restrict my employment by sending any perspective employer my alleged sex offender information. That is justice? there is 500,000 of just these kind of cases? We need a revolution! Government in our country is no longer interested in the constitution but how they can control EVERYONE

Posted by: RJM II | Jul 31, 2008 1:12:51 PM

in the first post someone said its ok that the sex offenders are on the registry as this is punishment for a past crime. I would like you to know that the only way that this is legal is to say its not punishment. The courts are well aware that it is but lie and cover this as only for public safety. Circumvent the constitution and there you go. We all know this is punishment. Its a life time of being denied the basics of life. Not just for the offender but also their family .People you have opened a flood gate of new laws. Who knows what will be next. Fear will get enough people to vote for any law. Doesn't need to make sense or even be fair. just make them afraid enough and you have a bunch of new government employees. New taxes and hey don't forget a new class of people to hate.So many benefits one can't count them all. And has the sex offender registration helped? Well considering that most new sex crimes are being committed by first time offenders. When i say most its 97%. I think not. The thing about if i only knew maybe we could have done something. thing is we do know. the ones doing this are not the ones that we hound. they are your own friends and neighbors. Your own family members. This is a shame based crime. Most will not report as in 90%. And ask yourself why. Not to hard to figure out.

Posted by: hateisking | Dec 30, 2008 1:17:06 PM

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