http://www.casperstartribune.net/articl ... 02072f.txt
Wyo loses gun lawsuit
By BEN NEARY
Associated Press writer Wednesday, May 09, 2007
CHEYENNE -- The federal agency that tracks gun purchases was correct in rejecting a Wyoming law that sought to allow people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence charges to regain their right to own guns through the state courts, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson ruled Tuesday against Wyoming's claim that the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arbitrarily rejected the 2004 state law.
The federal agency had warned Wyoming that if it persisted in allowing people with misdemeanor violence convictions to buy guns, that the federal government would no longer recognize more than 10,000 concealed carry permits issued by the state as a substitute for federal background checks for firearms purchases.
"We are pleased with the court's decision," Justice Department spokesman Charles S. Miller in Washington, D.C., said Tuesday.
Pat Crank, Wyoming attorney general, said he was disappointed with Johnson's ruling. He said he hadn't read it.
"We thought we had a very sound legal argument," Crank said. "We'll have to review it and see if we want to appeal, or if this will be the end of this lawsuit."
The National Rifle Association had argued in court on the state's behalf. Observers had said they expected the Wyoming case would have national implications.
Congress in 1996 expanded the law that bans convicted felons from owning guns to apply to people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence.
Although states have the ability to expunge convictions, Wyoming's law attempted to specify that convictions could be removed for purposes of restoring firearms rights but remain on the books for purposes of enhancing punishment for any subsequent conviction.
"In short, the applicant may be prohibited ... from carrying firearms because of the BATF's determination that a state's statute is insufficient to remove a federal firearms prohibition," the judge wrote.
Besides a possible appeal, Crank said: "The other option is that the Legislature can always go back and change the law, and make it more of a complete expungement."
Crank's office issues concealed carry firearms permits for the state. He said he's aware of one person who has obtained a concealed carry permit after having a misdemeanor conviction expunged.
Crank said he didn't know how many people have had misdemeanor convictions expunged.
Daniel Vice, junior attorney at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C., said it was appropriate for the federal government to oppose a law that would "make it easier for dangerous people to get their guns back."
"The Brady Center applauds the court's ruling," Vice said. "Particularly after Virginia Tech, we shouldn't be making it easier for dangerous people to get their guns."
Ashley Varner, spokeswoman for the NRA in Fairfax, Va., said that despite the judge's ruling, her organization still believes the Wyoming law was solid.
"It provides a very detailed process by which a person could apply to get their rights restored," Varner said. "We feel that it was a responsible way to go about any kind of expungement process. It's important to note that the law provided for the victims of a crime, as well as the prosecutor, to weigh in on the court's decision. And we feel that was a solid way, a solid law."
Associated Press Writer Matt Apuzzo in Washington contributed to this report.