Skip to comments.Full Faith and Credit, Pardons, and Gun Rights
Posted on 07/11/2013 5:54:53 AM PDT by marktwain
From Blackwell v. Haslam (Tenn. Ct. App. June 28, 2013) (paragraph breaks added):
This appeal involves the Full Faith and Credit Clause and firearm rights. The petitioner was convicted of felony drug offenses in Georgia. The State of Georgia granted the petitioner a full pardon for his crimes; his Georgia pardon expressly restored his right to possess a firearm.
The petitioner now resides in Tennessee. A Tennessee statute provides that it is a felony for a person who has been convicted of a felony drug offense to possess a firearm, and it does not make an exception for persons who have been pardoned for their crime. The petitioner filed this declaratory judgment action against the State of Tennessee, seeking a declaration that, because he received a pardon for his drug offenses in Georgia, he can purchase or possess a firearm in Tennessee without violating the Tennessee statute.
The trial court held in favor of the petitioner, concluding that the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution requires Tennessee to recognize Georgias pardon in full and to permit the petitioner to carry a firearm in Tennessee. The State of Tennessee now appeals.
On appeal, we consider the public-policy exception to the Full Faith and Credit Clause. We hold that Tennessees public policy on the restoration of firearm rights for a convicted non-violent drug felon is not entirely inconsistent with Georgias public policy, so the public-policy exception to full faith and credit is not applicable in that situation. However, Tennessee public policy proscribes the restoration of firearm rights for a convicted violent drug felon, contrary to Georgias public policy allowing the restoration of firearm rights for all felons, violent or not. This Tennessee policy implicates public safety so as to warrant application of the public-policy exception to the Full Faith and Credit Clause under the appropriate circumstances....
[T]his case was decided based on the pleadings alone, and the pleadings do not give details about the circumstances of Mr. Blackwells crimes. Specifically, Mr. Blackwells complaint states that he was pardoned for drug felonies, but it does not indicate whether the drug felonies of which Mr. Blackwell was pardoned involved the use or attempted use of force, violence, or a deadly weapon. For this reason, the case should be remanded for further proceedings.
On remand, the State bears the stern and heavy burden of proving that Mr. Blackwells crimes involved the use or attempted use of force, violence, or a deadly weapon. If this is so, then giving full faith and credit to Georgias restoration of Mr. Blackwells firearm rights would be directly contrary to Tennessees strong public policy against the restoration of firearm rights for one convicted of such a felony. In other words, requiring Tennessee to extend full faith and credit to Georgias restoration of Mr. Blackwells firearm rights under those circumstances would require too large a sacrifice by [Tennessee] of its interests in a matter with which it is primarily concerned protecting public safety and preventing crime.
Therefore, we vacate the trial courts grant of judgment on the pleadings to Mr Blackwell. We remand the case to the trial court for the State to have the opportunity to show that giving full faith and credit to Georgias restoration of Mr. Blackwells firearm rights would offend Tennessees public policy against the restoration of firearm rights for a person convicted of a felony that involved the use or attempted use of force, violence, or a deadly weapon, and further related proceedings.
Note that theres some dispute about whether the Full Faith and Credit Clause even applies to pardons, when a person was convicted in State A and then pardoned by State A, and then State B is deciding what collateral effect to give to the State A conviction (e.g., when calculating a persons criminal history because he has now committed a crime in State B, or deciding on gun rights or licensing or what have you). See People v. Laino (Cal. 2004).
Note also (just to fend off an argument that often arises about a different guns/Full Faith and Credit matter) that the fact that a person is licensed to do something in State A (carry a gun, practice law, drive) doesnt mean that State B must honor that license when that person wants to do the same thing in State B. Full Faith and Credit does not apply to that, though many states may choose to honor out-of-state licenses as a matter of policy (as, for instance, with drivers licenses).
I think the appellate court was correct, that this was not really an issue of full faith and credit, because the two states laws were much alike, with one exception, whether the original offense had been violent or non-violent.
The lower court, in finding for the petitioner, neglected to say whether his original conviction was for a violent or non-violent drug offense. While Tennessee would permit restoration for non-violent pardoned drug offenses, it has no mechanism for restoration of pardoned violent drug offenses.
So the case was returned with instructions to specify what kind of original offense was involved. If it was non-violent, petitioner has his gun rights restored; if violent, he won’t get them restored, because there is no mechanism to do so.
Importantly, this also matters in federal law, because there is no federal mechanism to restore felon gun rights at all. So if convicted of a federal felony, gun rights are gone for good.
People convicted of non-violent felonies or misdemeanors, should never be barred from being able to own a firearm.