After a major U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year on Second Amendment rights, the Florida Supreme Court could decide whether to uphold a state law barring possession of guns by convicted felons.
An attorney for convicted felon William Edenfield on Tuesday asked the Florida Supreme Court to take up a constitutional challenge to the law. The request came after a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal in May rejected Edenfield’s arguments.
Tuesday’s brief focused, in part, on a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case known as New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.
In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court required evaluating gun restrictions by whether they are consistent with the nation’s “historical tradition of firearm regulation.”
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Edenfield’s attorney, Tyler Kemper Payne, wrote that the 1st District Court of Appeal interpreted the Bruen decision to “read into the Second Amendment a limitation to only ‘law-abiding, responsible citizens.’ Such a qualification is found nowhere in the Second Amendment’s controlling text. The district court cited almost no historical evidence in support of this limitation.”
“In short, the district court expressly construed the Second Amendment, a provision of the federal Constitution, by limiting its scope and finding the prohibition at issue historically supported,” Payne, an assistant public defender in the 2nd Judicial Circuit, wrote. “Petitioner (Edenfield) asks this (Supreme) Court to accept jurisdiction to resolve whether Florida’s prohibition on felons from possessing firearms remains constitutional in the wake of Bruen.”
But in its May 31 decision, the appeals court said a “review of the pertinent precedent from the United States Supreme Court on the Second Amendment shows that a felon, such as appellant (Edenfield), still cannot claim an unfettered constitutional right to possess a firearm post-Bruen.”
The appeals court ruling, written by Judge Ross Bilbrey and joined fully by Judge Thomas Winokur, said that whether based on legal precedents “excluding convicted felons from having protected Second Amendment rights, or whether based on the historical tradition of the Second Amendment as given by Bruen, we conclude that Florida law prohibiting convicted felons from possessing firearms survives Second Amendment scrutiny.”
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Judge Robert Long concurred in the result but did not sign on to the majority opinion.
The challenge came after Edenfield was convicted in Leon County on two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, according to the brief filed Tuesday. The Florida Department of Corrections website shows that Edenfield also had previous convictions on theft and burglary charges.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Bruen decision has been raised in other challenges to gun laws across the country. As an example, a filing Friday at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals indicated it could become an issue in a Florida lawsuit challenging a federal prohibition on medical-marijuana patients buying and possessing guns.
It is unclear when the Florida Supreme Court will decide whether to take up Edenfield’s case. Edenfield is an inmate at Blackwater River Correctional Facility, according to the Department of Corrections website.
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