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COA: Felon’s right to bear arms was not reinstated

December 9, 2016

A trial court judge’s statement that he was not going to prevent a convicted felon from possessing a firearm at his post-conviction hearing is not the equivalent of the reinstatement of the man’s right to bear arms, the Indiana Court of Appeals found Friday.

In August 1989, Gary Lowrance learned that his wife, Lesley Lowrance, was having an affair with his best friend, Steven Patterson. Patterson told Gary Lowrance that he and Leslie Lowrance intended to take the couple’s son to Kentucky, where Patterson would raise him as his own.

Later that night, Gary Lowrance asked his wife to come upstairs and kiss their son goodnight, and as she was doing so Gary Lowrance knocked her to the floor. Patterson ran upstairs and Gary Lowrance brandished a handgun and threatened to kill Patterson. He shot Patterson in the head numerous times and his wife in the head twice before beating her jaw and face. When the son began to cry, Gary Lowrance told him they were playing a game and asked if he wanted to help.

Although Patterson did not die, he suffered permanent brain damage and faces the prospect of a life-threatening operation to remove a bullet lodged in his spine. Leslie Lowrance also survived but suffered several injuries to her head and face.

Gary Lowrance was convicted on two counts of attempted murder and was sentenced to concurrent 30-year sentences.  In December 1994 he was granted post-conviction relief and was retried and convicted of Class C felony battery and attempted voluntary manslaughter. He was resentenced in 1996 to an aggregate of 30 years with 10 years suspended to probation, though the judge said he would not prevent him from possessing a firearm as part of his probation.

Lowrance successfully completed his probation in 2009, but in 2014 his application to purchase a shotgun was denied following a background check that revealed his attempted murder convictions. Lowrance filed a motion for a nunc pro trunc order and argued that the trial court judge’s statement at his 1996 sentencing hearing constituted an order returning his right to bear arms. He also asked that the abstract of judgment be updated to reflect his lesser chargers.

The Vanderburgh Circuit Court issued an updated abstract of judgment but denied his motion to show that his right to bear arms had been reinstated in 1996. Lowrance appealed, but the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision Friday, writing that the judge’s statement at the 1996 sentencing hearing was not a reinstatement of his right to bear arms but instead was meant as a setting forth of the terms and conditions of his probation. And if the trial court was not reinstating that right, then the applicability of that statement ended in 2009 when Lowrance completed his probation, the appellate court wrote.

The case is Gary W. Lowrance v. State of Indiana, 82A01-1601-CR-61.

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