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Law Banning Guns With Removed Serial Numbers Is Unconstitutional, Judge Rules

Judge affirms modern gun laws must be consistent with the intent of the constitution at the time it was written

A federal judge has ruled that a National ban on possessing a firearm that has its serial number removed is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin found that the law was not “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation,” the standard now in place since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in June.

He also affirmed that despite whatever political or social pressures exist to pass firearm regulations, new laws must be crafted in alignment with the intent of the Second Amendment at the time it was written.

“Any modern regulation that does not comport with the historical understanding of the right is to be deemed unconstitutional, regardless of how desirable or important that regulation may be in our modern society,” Judge Goodwin wrote.

The case before the court stemmed from a traffic stop in 2019 of a man named Randy Price who was charged with possession of a firearm with a removed serial number.

The Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 required serial numbers on firearms to help prevent illegal sales and to help law enforcement officers solve crimes, as firearms could be traced. Federal law makes it illegal to possess a gun — if it has ever come across state lines — with a manufacturer’s serial number that has been removed, changed, or altered.

Judge Goodwin recognized the commercial regulation that requires manufacturers to serialize their firearms, but held that regulations that apply to manufacturers and sellers do not implicate a person’s right of possession.

“It criminalizes the mere possession of a firearm after a serial number is removed, obliterated, or altered in any way, whether or not the firearm is then placed into commerce,” he wrote.

Judge Goodwin provided the example of an individual who might legally purchase a firearm at a store, then goes home — with no ill intent and without doing anything else illegal with the gun — and removes the serial number.

“Contrary to the Government’s argument that Section 922(k) does not amount to an ‘infringement’ on the lawabiding citizen’s Second Amendment right, the practical application is that while the law-abiding citizen’s possession of the firearm was originally legal, it became illegal only because the serial number was removed,” he wrote. “That is the definition of an infringement on one’s right to possess a firearm.”

Judge Goodwin also rejected a textualist view of the U.S. Constitution, stating that only those regulations that would have been considered constitutional at the time the Second Amendment was adopted in 1791 can be considered constitutional now.

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