Federal Court Rules Nonviolent Misdemeanor Crimes Cannot Strip Firearms Rights

Argued June 1st, the Third Circuit of the Court of Appeals has issued a decision on cases Binderup v. the U.S. Attorney General and Suarez v. the U.S. Attorney General. In short, the 11 judge panel rules that the Government cannot deny 2nd Amendment rights to those convicted of state-level non-violent misdemeanors. Previously established interpretations of Federal law stripped the two men of their 2nd Amendment rights, as those convicted of misdemeanors that can be punished with two or more years in prison were then prohibited persons.

Their crimes? Binderup was convicted of “corrupting a minor” (up to five years in prison) and Suraez was convicted of carrying a firearm without a license (up to three years). Both plaintiffs received only minor punishment, including probation or deferred sentences and a small fine. Since their convictions, both are crime-free and it was reported that one even received a “Secret” clearance.

What is surprising in the ruling is that the entire panel of 11 judges overruled the lower courts’ decision. While some judges dissented, the ruling is significant legal victory for the plaintiffs and those in similar legal circumstances.

The case was chaired by Alan Gura. Gura is well-known within the firearms legal community for his success in arguing both the McDonald and Heller cases which currently confirm the rights of citizens to own firearms.

The lengthy decision is available here. 

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • Alex Agius


  • JD

    about time.

  • Senior Gun Owner 1950

    This case really needs to be read very carefully. It’s a VERY fractured opinion. What the case specifically stated is that there is still a presumption that a prior felony conviction makes an individual an ineligible person under 18 USC 922. However, that presumption is rebuttable by the “presumptively ineligible person” on an “as applied challenge” under some very limited circumstances.

    To get a sense of just how limited this case really is just read Part IV. The Conclusion is pgs 40-41 out of a 174 page opinion. The Conclusion stated:
    When sorting out a fractured decision of the Court, the goal is “to find a single legal standard” that “produce[s] results with which a majority of the [Court] in the case
    articulating the standard would agree.” We have at times “looked to the votes of dissenting [judges] if they, combined with votes from plurality or concurring opinions, establish a majority view on the relevant issue.” And when no single rationale explaining the result enjoys the support of a majority of the Court, its holding “may be viewed as that position taken by those Members who concurred in the judgments on the narrowest grounds.”
    Applying those interpretive tools here, the following is the law of our Circuit:
    (1) the two-step Marzzarella framework controls all Second Amendment challenges,
    including as-applied challenges to § 922(g)(1);
    (2) a challenger will satisfy the first step of that framework only if he proves that the law or regulation at issue burdens conduct protected by the Second Amendment;
    (3) to satisfy step one in the context of an as-applied challenge to § 922(g)(1), a challenger must prove that he was not previously convicted of a serious crime;
    (4) evidence of a challenger’s rehabilitation or his likelihood of recidivism is not relevant to the step-one analysis;
    (5) as the narrowest ground supporting the Court’s judgments for Binderup and Suarez, the considerations discussed above will determine whether crimes are serious (i.e., disqualifying) at step one; and
    (6) if a challenger makes the necessary step-one showing, the burden shifts to the
    Government at step two to prove that the regulation at issue survives intermediate scrutiny

    Senior Gun Owner 1950

  • gusto

    heck I could support even violent criminals getting their rights back.
    if they have paid their debt to society they have. up to a point, somebody gets in a bar fight or robs one liquor store when they are 18year old, and now they are 35 with a job, house and family they are probably fine

    having them as second class citizens only alienates them more.

    but what do I know, I am from a country supposedly soft on crime, being used to being lambasted on the internet, and yet countries like mine have the lowest recividism rate in the world…

    • Dan

      I tend to agree. Stupid decisions you make when you’re 18 for the most part shouldn’t follow you until death so long as you have demonstrated you are an upstanding citizen. Where I work We have had to turn away a lot of potential employees because they got in a fight 10 years ago and have an assault charge, but afterwards not even so much as a speeding ticket.
      Some crimes though yeah you deserve to be a second class citizen.

      And your country sucks because you’re soft on crime. Sorry didn’t want you to miss out on the internet abuse. 😉

    • ARCNA442

      I would tend to agree with that sentiment if we had a functioning system of punishments. But if we enacted it now we would likely see gang members with dozens of convictions being allowed to legal buy weapons (whether this would actually affect levels of violence is of course open to debate).

      • Trevor

        As opposed to them getting them from family/friends or theft like they do now? The same arguments against banning guns apply to banning firearms rights for felonies.

    • the only problem is those who go to prison normally end up going back in in a fairly short time. Very few are actually rehabilitated.

  • Jim_Macklin

    Violent criminals get out of prison everyday. Those that want to go back to their life of crime can and do get one or more guns within 24 hours of release. Drug dealers also take stolen guns in trade. There is a barter system, maybe a secret handshake but laws define crime and establish punishment. But laws only stop honest people from committing crime.
    Almost everybody knows how to drive a car, but most are not car thieves. Robbing a bank only requires a pencil and a piece of paper. We are all, male and female equipped to commit rape but most of us do not.
    Fools think that passing a law makes society safer. They missed the Volstead Act known as Prohibition increased crime, including murder. It also created Organized Crime which is still a problem almost 100 years later. The 1934 National Firearms Act did not reduce crime, it was repeal of the Volstead Act which reduced the immediate violent crime.
    But organized crime moved from alcohol to drugs, a much more profitable and easier to transport black-market product.
    The Third Circuit got it correct, let’s hope the case go to the SCOUS and they find the Constitution TRUMPS the restrictive laws.