A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Tuesday upheld a U.S. law that makes it a crime for people who are illegally in the United States to possess a gun.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the case of a San Jose man, Victor Manuel Torres, who entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico in 2005 at the age of 20.
Torres had previously come to San Jose with his mother as a child, but was sent back to Mexico by his family after he was expelled from school in San Jose because of gang activity.
In 2014, he was found to have a loaded revolver in his backpack after he was arrested in Los Gatos on suspicion of trying to sell a stolen
bicycle. Torres was convicted in federal court in San Jose and sentenced to two years and three months in prison for being an illegal immigrant in possession of gun.
In his appeal, Torres claimed the federal law violated his constitutional Second Amendment right to possess firearms.
But the appeals court said that while it is unclear whether undocumented immigrants have Second Amendment rights, the law banning gun possession by that group is “a valid exercise of Congress’s authority.”
A three-judge panel unanimously said, “The government’s interests in controlling crime and ensuring public safety are promoted by keeping firearms out of the hands of unlawful aliens.”
The Second Amendment guarantees “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” In a landmark decision in 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court said that right applies to individuals.
Circuit Judge N.R. Smith wrote in Tuesday’s ruling that decisions by other federal appeals courts in the nation have had varying reasoning as to “whether aliens unlawfully present in the United States are part of ‘the people’ to whom Second Amendment protections extend.”
But even “assuming that unlawful aliens do hold some degree of Second Amendment rights, those rights are not unlimited,” Smith wrote.