A former Virginia resident’s felony conviction there prohibits him from having a gun in Wisconsin despite having that right restored in Virginia, the Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
James P. Moran, who now lives in Chippewa County, was convicted of embezzlement in Virginia in 1995. He completed five years of probation, paid $30,700 restitution and later petitioned to have his civil rights restored.
In 2006, Virginia’s governor granted the petition, except the right to possess a firearm. For that, Moran had to petition the court where he had been convicted, and in 2013 he was granted a permit to carry a concealed weapon and bought at least one gun in Virginia.
In 2016, when he had become a Wisconsin resident, Moran was turned down when he tried to buy a handgun after Wisconsin’s background check procedure flagged the Virginia felony.
He appealed but the state’s Department of Justice said the only way he could get his Wisconsin gun rights restored was by pardon or under a federal statute. A Chippewa County judge upheld the DOJ denial and Moran appealed again.
In a 26-page opinion, Judge Thomas Hruz for the District III Court of Appeals in Wausau rejected Moran’s argument that Virginia’s restoration of his civil rights is the functional equivalent of a pardon.
The opinion also explained why the DOJ’s decision does not violate the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution or violate Moran’s right to bear arms under the state and U.S. constitutions.
Moran also argued that a federal law about what convictions count in deciding felon-in-possession charges pre-empts Wisconsin’s law. The court disagreed.
“Although Congress has adopted a more relaxed definition of ‘conviction’ than has Wisconsin, Moran does not receive the benefit of the (federal statutory) definition for purposes of the state prohibition on firearm possession by a felon,” Hruz wrote. “Federalism principles require this result.”
Contact Bruce Vielmetti at (414) 224-2187 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ProofHearsay.
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