The Supreme Court is considering a tricky dilemma faced by people who legally own guns, but are then convicted of a serious crime and have to get rid of them.
Since federal law bars convicted felons from possessing firearms, how can those guns be sold or transferred without running afoul of the law?
The quandary, which has divided lower courts, came up Tuesday as the justices weighed the unusual case of Tony Henderson, a former U.S. Border Patrol agent from Florida who was arrested and charged with distributing marijuana.
Henderson had turned over 19 firearms valued at more than $3,500 to the FBI as a condition of his release. After pleading guilty, Henderson wanted to transfer the weapons to his wife, sell them to a friend or otherwise get some value for them.
But lower courts sided with the government, which argued that letting Henderson transfer ownership of the weapons technically would give him possession in violation of law. Prosecutors also said they could not be sure Henderson’s friend or wife would actually prevent him from using the weapons.
The case has drawn the attention of gun-rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, which argued that the government’s expansive reading of the law violates the Second Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens who want to buy the guns from doing so.