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Non-Violent Felons Prohibited From Owning Guns According To Wisconsin Supreme Court's Ruling

Wisconsin Supreme Court Judges asserted in State v. Roundtree that convicted felons are prohibited from owning firearms regardless of the nature of their crime.

The challenge originated from a Milwaukee man who lost his second amendment rights after he was convicted of failing to pay child support. The 5-2 ruling stated that the plaintiff should not receive any special dispensation because his crime did not endanger public safety.

Leevan Roundtree, 52, was arrested for possession of a firearm stolen in Texas, ten years after he was sentenced for failing to pay child support.

He was consequently found guilty for violating Wisconsin law prohibiting felons from owning guns and sentenced to 18 months of initial confinement and 18 months of extended supervision.

The defendant-appellant applied for postconviction relief, challenging the constitutionality of the felon in possession conviction as stated in Wis. Stat. § 941.29(2).

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A Wisconsin Circuit Court of Appeals court decided that "Roundtree is a felon. The ban on felons possessing firearms is therefore constitutional as to him."

In the Wisconsin Supreme Court challenge, Roundtree argued that his failure to pay child safety did not endanger the public and thus, the court should allow him to own firearms for self-defense.

He added that the law prohibiting felons from owning firearms was "narrowly tailored to advance a compelling government interest" thus subject to strict scrutiny.

Writing the majority opinion, Justice Ann Walsh-Bradley stated that Wisconsin Statute § 941.29(2) did not "create a hierarchy of felonies," and thus the Wisconsin Supreme Court wasn't willing to do so.

Justice Walsh-Bradley based the majority opinion on the belief that convicted felons were more likely to engage in violent illegal gun use than non-felons, non-violent offenders have higher recidivism rates than violent offenders, and that future crimes committed by non-violent felons are more likely to be violent.

Justice Rebecca Grassl Bradley dissented saying that any "means-end scrutiny" to the applied challenge was inappropriate when the petitioner falls outside "the historical justifications supporting the regulation." She added that "such laws are categorically invalid as applied to persons entitled to Second Amendment protection."

She also compared Wisconsin's statute dispossessing non-violent offenders their 2A rights to the 'severe restriction' statute struck down in Heller v. District of Columbia, 670 F.3d 1244, 1273 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (Kavanaugh, J., dissenting).

Justice Brian Hagedorn also disagreed with the majority opinion noting that offenders convicted of violent misdemeanors are allowed to keep their guns while non-violent felons were denied theirs.

"Felon-dispossession laws may be permissible under this historical protection, but only where the State shows the restriction substantially advances the State's interest in protecting against gun-related violence," Hagedorn stated. "Here, however, the State did not carry its burden to show that Wisconsin's dispossession law satisfies this standard."

Failing to pay child support is unjustifiable under any circumstances, and the possession of a stolen firearm is a crime that should be punishable as stipulated. However, losing your right to self-defense for child support should not be a thing.

Not all dads who are behind on child support are dead beats, some take care of their children in other ways. Some may also need the protection of firearms to fulfill their obligations especially if they work in dangerous neighborhoods.

Additionally, prohibiting non-violent offenders from owning guns has no constitutional backing based on the original provisions of the Second Amendment statute.


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