United States v. Darrington
In United States v. Darrington, 351 F.3d 632 (5th Cir. 2003), the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the "felon in possession statute," 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), which prohibits possession in interstate commerce of a firearm or ammunition by a felon (one convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year).
- Relying on United States v. Emerson, 270 F.3d 203 (5th Cir. 2001), Darrington argues that section 922(g)(1) violates his individual right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment. Emerson recognized that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to privately possess and bear firearms. Id. at 260. Emerson is a carefully worded decision, and we do not address the contention that its recognition of a individual right to keep and bear arms is dicta. 2 For our purposes, Emerson itself explained that the individual right it recognized does not preclude the government from prohibiting the possession of firearms by felons:
- Although, as we have held, the Second Amendment does protect individual rights, that does not mean that those rights may never be made subject to any limited, narrowly tailored specific exceptions or restrictions for particular cases that are reasonable and not inconsistent with the right of Americans generally to individually keep and bear their private arms as historically understood in this country. Indeed, Emerson does not contend, and the district court did not hold, otherwise. As we have previously noted, it is clear that felons, infants and those of unsound mind may be prohibited from possessing firearms.
- Id. at 261. Emerson also discusses authority that legislative prohibitions on the ownership of firearms by felons are not considered infringements on the historically understood right to bear arms protected by the Second Amendment. Id. at 226 n.21.