Court of appeals rejects second amendment challenge to federal firearms statute
BUFFALO, N.Y.-- U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has rejected a Second Amendment challenge to a federal statute which imposes stiff punishment on drug traffickers who possess firearms to further their drug-trafficking activities. Ron Bryant was convicted in 2008, following a jury trial in federal court in Rochester, New York, of trafficking in crack cocaine and possessing a shotgun in furtherance of his drug activity. Bryant appealed his conviction, claiming that because he possessed the shotgun to protect his home, the federal statute violated his Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Bryant based his claim on the United States Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which was decided shortly after his conviction. In Heller, the Supreme Court said that law-abiding responsible citizens have a constitutional right under the Second Amendment to bear arms for lawful purposes. In a case decided shortly after Heller, the Supreme Court emphasized that this right was most notably “for self-defense within the home.”
In Bryant’s case, the Court of Appeals rejected Bryant’s claim that the Second Amendment protected his right to possess the shotgun to protect himself while he was selling crack cocaine from his home. The Court said that even if Bryant had originally obtained the shotgun for the legitimate reason of protecting himself after he was robbed, “once Bryant engaged in an illegal home business, . . . he was no longer a law-abiding citizen using the firearm for a lawful purpose, and his conviction for possession of a firearm under these circumstances does not burden his Second Amendment right to bear arms.”
Bryant remains in federal prison serving a sentence of 81 months imposed by United States District Judge Charles J. Siragusa following his conviction.
On appeal the government was represented by Assistant United States Attorney Monica J. Richards and the trial was handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Aaron J. Mango and Michael DiGiacomo.