Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis Judge Tosses out Gun Case, Citing Newly-Enacted Amendment 5

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis Judge Tosses out Gun Case, Citing Newly-Enacted Amendment 5

Article excerpt

MISSOURI AMENDMENT 5

"That the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms, ammunition, and accessories typical to the normal function of such arms, in defense of his home, person, family and property, or when lawfully summoned in aid of the civil power, shall not be questioned ..."

ST. LOUIS * A judge here dismissed a firearm possession charge Friday, ruling that a convicted felon was within his rights to be armed under a Missouri Constitutional amendment passed last year.

The sponsor of the measure said the decision was a subversion of the intent of Amendment 5, which garnered 60 percent of the vote in the August election.

But prosecutors said it was an outcome they feared, and Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce pledged an appeal.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker ruled that the Missouri law prohibiting felons from possessing guns is unconstitutional as applied in the case of Raymond Robinson, in part because it fails to differentiate between violent and non-violent felons.

The amendment declares the right to keep and bear arms "unalienable" and subjects laws restricting gun rights to "strict scrutiny."

Dierker limited his decision to the circumstances of Robinson's situation; it is not binding on other cases. It also has no effect on a federal law prohibiting felons from possession guns.

Robinson's was not the first defense motion to seek dismissal of a gun charge under Amendment 5, prosecutors and lawyers said, but was the first to succeed. They said other judges in St. Louis have considered and rejected six.

"This is exactly the type of litigation that I and others have warned about," Joyce said in an interview Friday. Her office said roughly 300 felon-in-possession charges are filed in St. Louis each year "to get dangerous felons disarmed."

Assistant Circuit Attorney Veronica Harwin, part of a team formed by prosecutors across the state to respond to Amendment 5-based challenges, said Missouri law does not define "violent."

Joyce said that force did not need to be shown to convict someone of statutory sodomy, for example, "But that does not mean the person should have a gun."

In Kansas City, Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker issued a statement that said, "If prosecutors lose the ability to prosecute felons in possession of firearms, more gang members, drug dealers and domestic abusers the persons responsible for most of the shootings in our communities will be allowed to carry guns."

The sponsor of the measure that put Amendment 5 on the ballot, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said Friday that he had not heard about Dierker's order. But he insisted that allowing felons to automatically have possession of firearms was not "the intent or legal effect of Amendment 5."

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson and activist Rebecca Morgan are suing to invalidate the Amendment 5 vote. …

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