Ninth Circuit: Felon Has ‘Right to Possess Firearm for Self-Defense’

An automatic pistol handgun with a gun safe and shooting equipment.
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On Thursday a three-judge panel from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided that Steven Duarte, a felon, has a “right to possess a firearm for self-defense.”

Courthouse News Service noted Duarte has five felony convictions and was a member of a street gang in Los Angeles.

The decision upholding Duarte’s gun rights was split, with George W. Bush appointee Carlos Bea and Donald Trump appointee Lawrence VanDyke deciding in the majority.

Bea wrote the majority opinion, noted the panel tested the prohibition against felons possessing guns in light of Bruen (2022) and found the government did not have a sufficient substantiation.

Bruen requires that gun control align with historical tradition and the intent of America’s founders. Bea and VanDyke did not believe the blanket prohibition against felons possessing firearms survived scrutiny.

Bea wrote:

We do not base our decision on the notion that felons should not be prohibited from possessing firearms. As a matter of policy, [the prohibition] may make a great deal of sense. But “[t]he very enumeration of the [Second Amendment] right” in our Constitution “takes out of [our] hands . . . the power to decide” for which Americans “th[at] right is really worth insisting upon.” (Heller).

He added:

Duarte is an American citizen, and thus one of “the people” whom the Second Amendment protects. The Second Amendment’s plain text and historically understood meaning therefore presumptively guarantee his individual right to possess a firearm for self-defense. The Government failed to rebut that presumption by demonstrating that permanently depriving Duarte of this fundamental right is otherwise consistent with our Nation’s history. We therefore hold that [the prohibition] violates Duarte’s Second Amendment rights and is unconstitutional as applied to him.

The case is USA v. Duarte in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio, and a pro-staffer for Pulsar Night Vision. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal in 2010 and holds a Ph.D. in Military History, with a focus on the Vietnam War (brown water navy), U.S. Navy since Inception, the Civil War, and Early Modern Europe. Beef is his favorite vegetable. Follow him on Instagram: @awr_hawkins. You can sign up to get Down Range at Reach him directly at


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