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The Second Amendment doesn't allow gunrunning, judge rules

A judge has ruled that two men facing charges they helped ferry two dozens guns from Alabama to Boston will have to stand trial, rejecting their requests to dismiss their indictments on Second Amendment grounds.

The rulings by US District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor - one today, one in October - came on motions by lawyers for Kobe Smith and Jahquel Pringle, who argued that a Supreme Court ruling extending the Second Amendment right to carry weapons covered their clients, both of whom are charged with illegal transportation of firearms across state lines in connection with two dozen guns carried by bus from Montgomery, AL to Boston - at least one of which was then used in a Dorchester shooting just hours after it arrived here.

Two other men, one here and one in Alabama, have pleaded guilty to their roles in the gun smuggling in 2020 and 2021. Saylor sentenced Jarmori Brown last July to 18 months in federal prison. Brandon Moore pleaded guilty in Alabama federal court to getting a woman friend to buy the guns at Montgomery-area pawn and gun shops, and is scheduled for sentencing on May 7.

In their motions to have the charges dropped, attorneys for both Smith and Pringle argued the specific charge against them, which refers to "receipt" of a gun transported across state lines without a license, is unconstitutional because "receipt" implies "ownership," and the Second Amendment plainly allows people to own guns.

Nope, Saylor ruled.

He noted that Supreme Court rulings, in both the more recent Bruen case and the earlier Heller case, focused on upholding what the court said was the right of "law-abiding, responsible citizens" to own guns for self-protection. The federal law under which the two men are charged "does not burden an individual’s right to possess a firearm for legitimate purposes of self-defense," Saylor wrote in today's decision on Smith's motion. He continued:

Furthermore, the Supreme Court has emphasized that "[l]ike most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited." Heller, 554 U.S. at 626. It is "not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose." Id. Accordingly, "laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms" are not prohibited by the Second Amendment.

And in Smith's case, the evidence submitted by prosecutors does more than suggest the guns Smith was involved in were not for his own personal protection:

Here, the indictment alleges that defendant engaged in the unlawful trafficking of firearms from Alabama into Massachusetts as part of a criminal conspiracy and for unlawful purposes. Some of those firearms have been recovered in the possession of convicted felons and are therefore likely to be used for criminal purposes. In fact, one of the firearms trafficked by defendant was involved in a shooting only three days after it was purchased in Alabama, and the same day that defendant brought it into Massachusetts.

Pringle's attorney raised another issue, that a separate charge against him, for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm is also unconstitutional, because he was only convicted of possession of an illegal firearm, not using it in a violent act.

Saylor rejected that argument as well. He noted that the Supreme Court ruling in the Bruen case "emphasized at least eleven times in the majority opinion that the Second Amendment protects 'law-abiding, responsible citizens' and that the decision also repeatedly emphasized that it was not overturning its earlier holding in the that while law-abiding citizens have the right to have guns at home, states could continue to regulate gun ownership to some extent - and to ban gun ownership by convicted felons.

Moreover, even if the First Circuit [Court of Appeals, which covers Massachusetts] or the Supreme Court were to carve out any exceptions to the predicate felony requirement, a prior violation of gun laws is unlikely to be among them. Illegal firearm activity is obviously linked to violence, even if it does not directly involve violent acts.

Smith was facing a similar illegal possession charge in Dorchester Municipal Court when federal prosecutors decided to charge him in 2022, after which he missed a hearing in his Dorchester case. Investigators eventually tracked him and Pringle to Vancouver, WA., where they were arrested earlier this year and transported back to Massachusetts.

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Innocent, etc.

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