Judges on the Missouri Supreme Court appeared skeptical Tuesday as an attorney for a convicted drug dealer argued that a new state constitutional amendment should allow nonviolent felons to carry guns.
The judges are considering how to interpret an amendment approved by voters in August that enhanced the state’s existing right to keep and bear arms. The measure makes gun-control restrictions subject to strict legal scrutiny, but adds that it shouldn’t be construed to prevent laws limiting the gun rights of “convicted violent felons.”
The measure doesn’t address the gun rights of nonviolent felons, such as Marcus Merritt, who was convicted of a federal drug dealing felony in 1986 and charged in 2013 with additional drug crimes and violating Missouri’s ban on felons possessing firearms. Merritt’s attorney, public defender Matthew Huckeby, argued that Missouri has no compelling reason to ban all felons from possessing guns for life.
But judges repeatedly pressed Huckeby to try to explain why the new constitutional amendment should be broadly applied to invalidate firearm bans for nonviolent felonies.
Judge Laura Denvir Stith noted that states have long had constitutional provisions similar to the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution