WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Monday rejected the Trump administration’s appeal of a lower court ruling loosening the federal prohibition on convicted felons possessing guns in a case involving two Pennsylvania men convicted of non-violent crimes who challenged the ban.
The justices let stand a lower court’s 2016 ruling that suggested denying felons whose crimes were not serious the right to own guns violated the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, which protects the right to “keep and bear arms.” That ruling, which allows individuals to challenge the prohibition as applied to them, was a blow to gun control advocates, while the Trump administration called it a threat to public safety.
Liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have granted the appeal to hear the case.
The 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling does not set a nationwide legal precedent.
The Pennsylvania men who challenged the ban, Julio Suarez of Gettysburg and Daniel Binderup of Manheim, both were convicted of non-violent misdemeanors, but the crimes carried maximum possible sentences of more than two years, falling within the definition of felony in the federal gun ban. Neither Suarez nor Binderup served jail time.
Binderup, who owns a plumbing business, pleaded guilty in 1998 of corrupting a minor after having a sexual affair with a 17-year-old female employee. Binderup was sentenced to three years of probation.
Suarez was convicted in Maryland in 1990 of carrying a gun without a permit. Suarez was given a suspended jail sentence and a year of probation.
Federal law generally prohibits firearm possession by individuals convicted of a crime punishable by a year or more in jail, the traditional definition of a felony. However, the law does not apply to offenses labeled as misdemeanors under state law that carry jail time of two years or less.
In 2013 and 2014, the men separately sued to escape the felon gun-possession prohibition. Emphasizing their non-violent offenses and light sentences, they argued the law violates their right to keep and bear arms under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.
The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in an 8-7 decision, held that people may challenge the ban depending on their particular criminal conviction, and found that it was unconstitutional as applied to the two men.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)