News of a recent gun-related Supreme Court opinion is making the rounds via emails and forums, with gun owners making breathless assumptions about the scope and significance of the decision. The case is Class v. United States, in which “A federal grand jury indicted petitioner, Rodney Class, for possessing firearms in his locked jeep, which was parked on the grounds of the United States Capitol in Washington, D. C.” The way the decision is being presented can lead to the assumption that the case is won, victory is complete, and gun owners can now ignore such statutes.
“Rod Class Just WON His Supreme Court Case (Federal District Court Gun Case was Richard W. Roberts who decided to ‘retire’ after his frustrating time presiding over Rod’s Gun Case),” a typical summation declares.
There are some significant concerns raised in that brief assertion. First, Justice Roberts has been on “inactive senior status” on the DC District Court since March, 2016, “citing unspecified health issues.” He has since been battling sexual assault allegations.
Second, let’s look at the legal question SCOTUS actually considered:
“Does a guilty plea bar a criminal defendant from later appealing his conviction on the grounds that the statute of conviction violates the Constitution?”
It concluded 6-3, “A guilty plea by itself does not bar that appeal,” with Thomas, Kennedy and Alito dissenting. The order specifically states:
“[W]e hold that Rodney Class may pursue his constitutional claims on direct appeal. The contrary judgment of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
That’s it. This is not an end. This is a continuation.
Admittedly, reading threads on Mr. Class and his legal theories can lead down many divergent paths, some with unequivocal detractors and others with supporters passionately behind him. Going down them and taking “sides” is not the purpose of this piece, which is merely to emphasize what the Supreme Court actually said.
We interested gun owners can be excused in many cases for making assumptions and coming to hopeful conclusions. Most of us aren’t lawyers. I’m not, and don’t claim any particular legal acumen or insight aside from being able to read. So we owe it to ourselves—and especially to those we hope to inform—to do some basic fact-checking before passing information on as Gospel.