The Missouri Supreme court has upheld a circuit court’s decision against a man who claimed a 2008 Missouri law violates the federal constitution.
In 1970 and 1975, Jack Alpert of western Missouri’s Johnson County pleaded guilty to two felony drug charges and was given three and two-year prisons sentences.
He was able to regain his Second Amendment rights in 1983 by completing a special program through the federal Gun Control Act.
At the time, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms determined that he would not be a danger to society if allowed to have firearms. Between 1983 and 2008, he not only legally possessed firearms but became a business owner in the industry.
After becoming an arms dealer, Alpert started Missouri Bullet Company (MBC) in 2007, which has grown rapidly to become the largest manufacturer of bullets in the U.S. He also decided to expand the business to include manufacturing explosives.
But in 2008, the state legislature amended the law to prohibit felons from possessing firearms, after which Alpert lost his firearms dealer’s license.
In its 4-3 decision written by Judge George W. Draper III, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision against Alpert, holding that the updated Missouri law is valid.
The majority opinion cited a 2016 case where the state high court upheld the changed statute as a constitutional restriction against a convicted nonviolent felon’s right to bear arms.
The majority also said Alpert failed to demonstrate that the updated Missouri law violated his Second Amendment rights, citing a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision which found the constitutional right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited.
Judge Draper also noted that previous cases relied on by Alpert’s attorney failed to establish a violation of the Second Amendment and failed to address the fact he committed felonies requiring that he serve prison time.
While arguing in early October before the Supreme Court in Jefferson City, Alpert’s attorney Ronald Ribaudo, cited a 2014 amendment to the Missouri Constitution. It calls for any restriction on gun rights to be subject to “strict scrutiny”.
In writing for the majority, Judge Draper said, “Alpert contends strict scrutiny is appropriate yet he relies on cases from other jurisdictions that apply a lesser level of scrutiny when analyzing Second Amendment challenges to support his claim”.
Two dissenting opinions in the case still wouldn’t have provided relief for Alpert as they would have dismissed his appeal.
Chief Justice Zel M. Fischer wrote that he would dismiss Alpert claims because his brief submitted to the bench broke Supreme Court rules which left nothing for appeal.
Fischer also agreed with Judge Paul C. Wilson, who wrote that he would dismiss Alpert’s appeal because he failed to show that his claims were ready for court action.
Wilson seemed to agree with one of the main arguments the state made in the proceedings that Alpert had no case because he didn’t own any guns he could fight in court to keep. The state claimed Alpert had not placed sufficient facts in the record to create a fully developed claim or demonstrated that an immediate, concrete dispute exists.
In arguing during proceedings in Jefferson City, Assistant Attorney General Gregory Goodwin said there’s no way to claim that the law violates his rights prior in advance of the law being enforced against him. “Someone can’t vindicate their rights unless there is first a violation of those rights,” said Goodwin.
But the majority opinion disagreed with that conclusion of Fischer and Wilson. Although it rejected his appeal, it held that Alpert had satisfied the requirements to bring a pre-enforcement challenge to the constitutionality of the state law, saying the high court had repeatedly rejected the notion a person must violate the law to create a “ripe controversy”.