A Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Pennsylvania ruled that a woman had no right to bear arms after pleading guilty to tax offenses. Lisa Folajtar admitted in 2011 to making false statements on her tax returns. She was sentenced to a probation sentence and a fine of $10,000. Since lying on a government form was considered a felony, Folajtar automatically lost her Second Amendment rights.
On Tuesday, a panel of judges voted 2-1 to uphold her prohibition, with an Obama and Clinton judge supporting the measure. They argued that since tax offenses were considered felonious and "those who commit serious crimes are excluded from the Second Amendment's protections." Thus, restoring her gun rights reduces the seriousness of her offense.
Clinton-appointed Justice Thomas Ambro wrote the leading opinion arguing that "the legislature's designation of an offense as a felony is generally conclusive in determining whether that offense is serious."
The opinion claimed that since tax offense was considered a serious crime under the legislature's definition, "Folajtar is not protected by the Second Amendment."
Last year, Civil Rights Defense Firm attorney Joshua Prince argued that the Founding Fathers did not indicate that a tax offense could take away someone's right to bear arms.
Similarly, a Trump-appointed Judge Stephanos Bibas noted that only dangerous felons were historically prohibited from exercising their Second Amendment rights.
"Nobody claims that Lisa Folajtar poses a danger," Bibas wrote. "Because neither history nor precedent supports disarming her for tax fraud, I respectfully dissent."
Folajtar's attorney highlighted the irony of stripping an American their Second Amendment rights over tax, which were the reason behind the American war of independence. He added that there existed no "longstanding prohibition on the possession of firearms by individuals who make a false statement on a tax return."
Prince added that tax defaulters were pardoned after paying their dues during the colonial period. Additionally, there was no permanent underclass of ex-cons branded permanently "unvirtuous."
"We must keep that history in mind when we read the Second Amendment. It does not exclude felons as an untouchable caste," Prince noted.
However, Obama Judge Cheryl Ann Krause and Clinton-appointed Justice Ambro disagreed with their colleague's dissent, saying that the legislature's determination of the felony status of a tax offender rendered the argument void.
"The dissent's concern for the rehabilitation of convicted criminals is commendable, and we agree with our dissenting colleague that, as illustrated by nineteenth-century state and federal legislatures' decisions to reduce the use of capital punishment and focus on the rehabilitation of convicted criminals, society need not implement the law according to the outer boundaries of what is constitutional," Justice Ambro wrote. "But the choice society has made in this case, by way of Congress's enactment of the felon-in-possession statute and the tax felony statute under which Folajtar was convicted, lies within those boundaries."
Factually, there is no justification for the prohibition of non-violent offenders from bearing arms. The measure exists because the Supreme Court has refused to interpret the constitution without a pre-conceived outcome.
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