By: Dee Wampler
The Second Amendment blankets more than just citizens
Mariano Meza-Rodriguez, a citizen of Mexico, was arrested in August 2013, carrying a .22 caliber cartridge. He was arrested after causing armed disturbances at several bars. After a foot chase, they apprehended him and patted him down turning up a loaded weapon. Video Surveillance at the bar indicated fairly positive identification of Meza-Rodriquez with a firearm and a later search turned up ammunition in his pocket. But it was what he did not have – documentation showing that he is lawfully in the United States – that concerns the court. His immigration status made his possession of the cartridge a crime under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(5), which prohibits foreigners who are not entitled to be in the United States (whom we call “unauthorized aliens”) from possessing firearms. Meza-Rodriguez moved to dismiss the indictment that followed, arguing that 922(g)(5) impermissibly infringed on his rights under the Second Amendment.
His current troubles began on midnight on August 24, 2013, when Milwaukee police officers responded to a report that an armed man was at a local bar. The officers obtained a surveillance video showing a man pointing an object that resembled a firearm. Witnesses later identified Meza-Rodriguez. A few hours later, the same officers responded to a different report of a fight at a neighboring bar. The officers broke up the fight and recognized Meza-Rodriquez as the man from the surveillance video. After a foot chase, they apprehended and patted him down. This brief search turned up a .22 caliber cartridge in his shorts pocket.
The government filed charges alleging that Meza-Rodriguez had violated 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(5), which states, in part:
It shall be unlawful for any person…
who, being an alien –
is illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
Does the Second Amendment protect the unauthorized non-U.S. citizens within our borders? The Amendment provides that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Supreme Court has confirmed that this language confers an “individual right to possess and carry weapons.”¹ But neither Heller nor any other Supreme Court decision has addressed the issue whether unauthorized noncitizens (or noncitizens at all) are among “the people” on whom the Amendment bestows this individual right.
In a recent federal case, a court directly under the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment right to bear arms applies to unlawful immigrants.² The court did not focus on the word “citizens” but on the term “the people” and concluded that an illegal alien is not disqualified as a member of “the people.” The court refused to consider the term “law-abiding citizens” and found that state and federal law does not restrict an illegal alien’s Second Amendment right to bear arms.
It is little wonder that the figures show that female senior citizens are heading to gun ranges, concerned about crime and terrorists. National Rifle Association records show that last year 23,000 people over the age of 65 took basic firearm training from NRA-certified instructors, four times the number five years earlier. And there’s been a spike in women seeking firearm training which has increased some 25 times compared to statistics 10 years ago.
Federal law prohibits any alien, who has illegally or unlawfully entered the United States with possessing a firearm or ammunition. Now, at least one important federal court (although several other courts disagree) has ruled that illegal aliens have a Constitutional Second Amendment right to possess a loaded firearm.
¹ District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 592 (2008).
² U.S. v. Meza-Rodriguez, 798 F3d 664 (7th Cir. 2015).
Dee Wampler – learn more
At the Law Offices of Dee Wampler & Joseph Passanise, Dee Wampler draws from more than four decades of legal experience in defending clients accused of an array of crimes throughout southwestern Missouri, including Springfield, St. Louis and Kansas City. As a Springfield native, Mr. Wampler understands the nuances of the Missouri court system, but he is an equally formidable criminal trial attorney in high-profile federal cases involving serious charges. His work has earned him recognition across the country and even internationally. Several nationally syndicated television shows, including “Saturday Night with Connie Chung,” “Inside Edition” and ABC’s “Primetime” have featured his cases, and Missouri Lawyers Weekly has showcased his work approximately 20 times.