ILNews

7th Circuit upholds gun ban for domestic violence offender

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A Wisconsin man who pled guilty to possessing firearms after he was convicted of a domestic battery misdemeanor is not allowed to have those firearms, even though he argued they were used for hunting, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday following an en banc oral argument that took place May 20.

The latest opinion for United States of America v. Steven Skoien, No. 08-3770, appealed from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, starts by stating that Steven Skoien had been found guilty of domestic violence misdemeanors on two separate occasions, and that he pled guilty to having guns even though he was not allowed to own them under the terms of his probation.

Statute 18 USC 922 (g) (9), which is a result of The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (often called the Brady Bill), defines who can or cannot have guns.

That statute includes anyone who has been convicted of a felony; those who have been adjudicated to be mentally ill; someone who has had a misdemeanor conviction of domestic violence where the defendant was an intimate partner, parent, guardian, or someone who had a child with the victim; and those who are subject to a protective order.

In its Nov. 18, 2009, decision following a hearing in April 2009, the court vacated and remanded the District Court’s decision that he could not have a gun because of the past misdemeanor convictions, stating the U.S. government didn’t make a strong enough case for prohibiting Skoien from ever possessing firearms.

During the most recent hearing, one of the arguments made by the defense counsel was that the statute had only existed for about 15 years, and that it was weak because of how it was passed. During the argument, judges questioned why it mattered how a bill was passed as long as it was indeed passed and signed into law.

The defense also argued that those who are excluded from owning guns under the statute due to domestic violence misdemeanors would find it nearly impossible to again own guns.

Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote in the July 13 opinion, “… some categorical disqualifications are permissible: Congress is not limited to case-by-case exclusions of persons who have been shown to be untrustworthy with weapons, nor need these limits be established by evidence presented in court.”

The opinion also addressed that because Skoien had a history of recidivism for domestic violence misdemeanors, he was “poorly situated” to argue “the statute creates a lifetime ban for someone who does not pose any risk of further offenses.”

The opinion also stated that even though Skoien’s crimes were misdemeanors, they would be considered felonies if committed against a stranger, which was why the statute included domestic violence misdemeanants among those who could not own firearms.

“The belief underpinning §922(g)(9) is that people who have been convicted of violence once—toward a spouse, child, or domestic partner, no less—are likely to use violence again. That’s the justification for keeping firearms out of their hands, for guns are about five times more deadly than knives, given that an attack with some kind of weapon has occurred,” Chief Judge Easterbrook wrote.

Judge Diane S. Sykes, who was on the panel for the November decision along with Judges William J. Bauer and John Daniel Tinder, and wrote that majority opinion, dissented, writing the government should need to make a stronger case for imprisoning Steven Skoien for exercising his Second Amendment rights.

Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence Legal Director Kerry Hyatt Blomquist previously told Indiana Lawyer she had followed this case because she knows of similar situations in Indiana courts where someone has been granted a protective order, which is included in the Brady disqualifiers, and then the judge questioned whether he needed to restrict the respondent from having a gun during hunting season.

She has also had clients where the victim had proof that even though the abuser was Brady disqualified, he still obtained a gun.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

ADVERTISEMENT