Readers in Pittsburgh may be aware that a felony conviction is enough for authorities in Pennsylvania to deny someone a license to own a firearm. We may think of this federal law as intended to prevent those convicted of a violent crime like murder or armed robbery from having a gun. But in a recent ruling, Commonwealth Court held that the blanket gun ban applies to those with certain nonviolent offenses on their records as well.
A Pittsburgh man who pleaded guilty to charges of misdemeanor identity theft in 2004 applied for a permit to purchase a firearm in 2011. At that time, state police rejected his application. Authorities said they interpreted the Federal Gun Control Act to apply to anyone convicted of a misdemeanor with a sentence of two years' incarceration. The crime the man pleaded guilty to carries a potential sentence of five years in prison, but the judge sentenced him to a year of probation instead.
Feeling that he was unfairly denied a firearm, the Pittsburgh resident appealed the state police decision to the Pennsylvania attorney general, who declined to hear the case. The case eventually reached Commonwealth Court, which recently issued its ruling. The court agreed with the state police interpretation of the federal statute. In the opinion, the judges ruled that a conviction of a nonviolent first-degree misdemeanor like identity theft can deny someone the right to own a gun.
If this ruling is not later overturned, it may impact the legal strategy of people who are accused of Internet crimes like identity theft. Those who own firearms will have to consider giving them up if they plead guilty to the charges.
Source: The Patriot-News, "Convicted identity thief can't own gun, Commonwealth Court rules," Matt Miller, Feb. 15, 2013
· Our law firm provide legal defense for charges like identity theft. For more information, please visit our Pittsburgh Internet crimes page.