Split Missouri high court upholds amended law barring convicted felons from possessing firearms

By Sam Knef | May 15, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY — In a 4-3 decision, the Missouri Supreme Court on April 3 upheld the state's refusal to allow a convicted felon to possess firearms based on a state law amended in 2008. 

The majority of the split court held in part that plaintiff Jack Alpert's argument that he had provided "ample, uncontradicted evidence regarding personal details of his life to demonstrate he posed no risk to public safety," was not a test used by the court.

"[A]nd even if this Court chose to do so ... Alpert cannot prevail," wrote Justice George W. Draper III for the majority.

According to background information in the ruling, Alpert had been convicted in Missouri state court in 1970 of possessing a controlled substance and was sentenced to three years in prison. In 1975, he pleaded guilty in federal court to possessing a controlled substance and was sentenced to two years in prison.

He petitioned to restore his right to possess a firearm with the U.S. attorney general in 1983, and his application was granted, according to information in the ruling. He applied for a federal firearms license, class 01, a three-year, renewable license that allowed him to deal in firearms. After that was granted, he began buying and selling firearms, with his license being regularly renewed.

Later, in 2007, Alpert founded the Missouri Bullet Co., a cast bullet manufacturer, according to the ruling.

But in 2008, the Missouri General Assembly amended state law making it illegal for anyone who had been convicted of a felony under Missouri law or laws considered felonies in other states to possess a firearm,

The next time after the law was amended that Alpert tried to renew his license, he was denied and forced to give up his federal firearms license.

He sued the state in Johnson County Circuit Court seeking declaratory judgment raising constitutional objections to the law enacted in 2008. He also petitioned to keep two family heirloom pistols and a rifle awarded to him in 1993.

The state's argument, among other things, was that Alpert, as a convicted felon, "categorically was excluded from Second Amendment protections, and therefore, his facial and as-applied challenges must fail."

Justices Mary Russell, Patricia Breckenridge and Laura Denvir Stith concurred in the majority opinion.

Chief Justice Zel Fischer and Justices Wilson Paul and W. Brent Powell dissented on the question of the case's "ripeness," as Alpert had not been threatened with prosecution

"To maintain this declaratory judgment action, Alpert must show there is a justiciable controversy and he has no adequate remedy at law...Alpert failed to carry this burden, and his action should be dismissed," Wilson wrote.

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