Dec 16 (Reuters) - Illegal immigrants do not have a right
to bear arms under the U.S. Constitution, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, based in
Missouri, rejected an appeal brought by Joaquin Bravo Flores,
who was charged with possessing a firearm. Agreeing with the
5th Circuit, the court concluded that the protections of the
Second Amendment do not extend to undocumented immigrants.
Executing a search warrant in 2010, police uncovered a
semi-automatic handgun in Bravo Flores' Minneapolis apartment.
A grand jury indicted him for being an alien in possession of a
firearm in violation of federal law. He was sentenced to three
years in prison.
Bravo Flores tried to dismiss the indictment, arguing that
the criminal law barring illegal immigrants from possessing
guns is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2008
recognized an individual right to possess firearms under the
Second Amendment. Bravo Flores argued that the Second
Amendment's guarantee of "the right of the people to keep and
bear arms" also applied to him and other illegal immigrants.
His lawyer argued in a court filing that Bravo Flores is a
member of "the people," having come to the country as a
teenager and now living with his American citizen partner and
their two citizen children.
The Supreme Court has previously ruled that undocumented
immigrants have constitutional rights in criminal cases,
including a Sixth Amendment right to trial and Fourth Amendment
protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The 8th Circuit declined to extend the right to bear arms
to illegal immigrants. The appeals court has previously upheld
other criminal laws that prohibit convicted felons and
narcotics addicts from possessing firearms.
Federal defender Andrea George, who represents Bravo
Flores, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The U.S. Attorney was not immediately available for
In June, the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit rejected a
constitutional challenge brought by a Mexican citizen arrested
in Texas for carrying a firearm, which he said he used to kill
coyotes. The appeals court quoted language from the Supreme
Court's 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, finding that
the phrase "the people" referred to "law-abiding citizens" and
"members of the political community."
One judge dissented, finding that the 5th Circuit decision
in that case meant that "millions of similarly situated
residents of the United States are non-persons who have no
rights to be free from unjustified searches of their homes and
bodies and other abuses, nor to peaceably assemble or petition
The 8th Circuit case is U.S. v. Joaquin Bravo Flores, No.
For the government: Michael Dees, formerly with the U.S.
For Bravo Flores: Andrea George of the Federal Public
(Reporting by Terry Baynes)
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