State of Wyoming v. BATF Amicus Brief for Gun Owners Foundation in the Tenth Circuit

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Firearms Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

Today we filed a Brief Amicus Curiae for Gun Owners Foundation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in support of the State of Wyoming and Wyoming Attorney General Patrick J. Crank.  The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (“BATF”) argued that Wyoming  Stat. Ann. § 7-13-1502(k), which provides for the expungement with regards to restoring firearms rights to a person convicted of the misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (“MCDV”), (a) is insufficient as an exemption from the NICS background check and (b) does not authorize the person eligible to purchase a firearm.

In a letter dated August 6, 2004, BATF advised the Wyoming AG that, after review of the Wyoming MCDV expungement statute, it had concluded that Wyoming law did not meet the federal “complete expungement” standard governing MCDV convictions, as set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33).  In response to BATF’s final ruling against Wyoming’s statute, Wyoming’s AG filed a complaint against BATF in U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming as being “arbitrary and capricious, and in direct violation of federal law” and, therefore, in violation of 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A).  The district court ruled against the State, adopting BATF’s interpretation of the disputed firearms statutes.

Our brief argued that the district court, contrary to relevant and controlling case law precedent, erroneously upheld BATF’s ruling, because Congress has directly and unambiguously established that expungements of state criminal convictions are to be determined by state law, not by an overriding federal standard, and that BATF’s ruling violates 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A).

Link to brief