Judge Rules Federal Ban on Guns With Removed Serial Numbers Is Unconstitutional

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A judge has ruled that a federal law banning guns that have had their serial numbers removed is unconstitutional.

Serial numbers were first required by the federal Gun Control Act of 1968 to allow guns to be traced. They were adopted in an effort to prevent illegal gun sales.

The law at issue prohibits any person from transporting a gun with the serial number “altered, obliterated, or removed,” across state lines. It also prohibits them from possessing such a gun if it has ever been transported across state lines.

The decision filed on Oct. 12 (pdf), written by U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin in Charleston, West Virginia, blocks the law from taking effect.

The decision comes in a criminal case involving an Ohio man, Randy Price, whose gun that had its serial number removed was found in his car at a traffic stop in Charleston. He was charged with illegally possessing a gun without a serial number, and also with illegally possessing a gun as a felon. Price had previously been convicted of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated robbery. Goodwin dismissed the former charge, but left in place the latter.

Price argued that the law banning possession of a gun without a serial number is unconstitutional and cited a landmark ruling (pdf) by the U.S. Supreme Court in June this year, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. The ruling stated that the government cannot restrict Americans’ constitutional right to carry firearms in public for self defense, unless the restriction is “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

“Only if a firearm regulation is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition may a court conclude that the individual’s conduct falls outside the Second Amendment’s ‘unqualified command,’” Thomas wrote.

Goodwin, a nominee of President Bill Clinton, found in his decision that the federal ban on guns with removed serial numbers is not consistent with the United States’ “historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

By Mimi Nguyen Ly

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