United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE.
Larry Edward Hatfield wants to keep a gun in his home for
self-defense. But the Government bans him from doing so,
because 28 years ago, Hatfield lied on some forms that he
sent to the Railroad Retirement Board: a felony in violation
of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a). Hatfield later pled guilty to
one count of violating the statute, an offense for which he
received no prison time and a meager amount in restitution
fees pursuant to a formal plea agreement with the Government.
Now, Hatfield brings this as-applied challenge to 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g)(1)-the statute that bans him from owning a
gun-on the grounds that it violates his Second Amendment
rights. Hatfield embeds his argument in United States v.
Williams, 616 F.3d 685, 692 (7th Cir. 2010), which
instructed that “[the Supreme Court's decision in
D.C. v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008)] referred to
felon disarmament bans only as ‘presumptively lawful,
' which, by implication, means that there must exist the
possibility that the ban could be unconstitutional in the
face of an as-applied challenge.” If there is any case
that rebuts that presumption, it is this one. So for the
following reasons, the Court GRANTS summary
judgment in favor of Plaintiff Larry E. Hatfield.
facts of this case are undisputed. From August 5, 1989 to
January 5, 1990, Hatfield completed several claim for
benefits forms and sent them to the U.S. Railroad Retirement
Board. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. A, ECF No. 41-1.) That
agency administers benefits for unemployed railroad workers
pursuant to the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act. 45
U.S.C. § 351, et seq. (Id.) But
Hatfield lied on the forms: he claimed that he was unemployed
for 53 days when he was actually working for the Merchant
Management Corporation of St. Louis, Missouri. Hatfield
wrongfully obtained $1, 627.73 from the Railroad Retirement
Board because of the lie. (Id.) Shortly thereafter,
the Government charged Hatfield with one count of making a
false statement in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a): a
later pled guilty to the charge following formal plea
negotiations with the Government. Even though 18 U.S.C.
§ 1001(a) provides for up to five-years imprisonment for
each violation, the Government recommended in the amended
plea agreement that the court only sentence Hatfield to three
years' probation plus restitution in the amount of
improper benefits received: $1, 627.73. The court agreed, and
ultimately sentenced Hatfield to those terms. (See United
States v. Hatfield, No. 3:91-cr-30093.) Since that time,
Hatfield has maintained a spotless record: he has no mental
health issues, he does not drink, he has no drug addictions,
and he does not even have any traffic citations since his
felony conviction. The only other blight in his history is a
driving while intoxicated charge from the 1980s, which
predates the felony charge. (Hatfield Dep. 31:24-32:13, ECF
forward nearly three decades and we have a problem. Even
though Hatfield received a small fine and no prison time for
his non-violent statutory felony, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)
bans him from owning a gun. That statute makes it unlawful
for a person to possess a gun if they have been convicted of
a crime that is technically punishable by more than one year
(i.e. a felony)- regardless of the sentence that the
individual actually received. Since making a false statement
in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a) is punishable by up
to five years, Hatfield falls within the gambit of §
now brings an as-applied challenge to the statute, arguing
that it violates his Second Amendment rights. His theory is
straightforward: the Seventh Circuit has said that
“there must exist the possibility that the [felon
disarmament] ban could be unconstitutional in the face of an
as applied challenge, ” Williams, 616 F.3d at
692, and Hatfield believes that he is the perfect challenger.
He argues that the Government does not have an important
interest in banning non-violent felons who received no prison
time like him from having a gun. Hatfield also points out
that while every state he researched has some sort of process
to restore Second Amendment rights to felons on a
case-by-case basis, the federal government does not.
Curiously, 18 U.S.C. § 925(c) does provide a similar
mechanism for a federal felon to restore their Second
Amendment rights through an application to the Attorney
General, but Congress has chosen to not fund § 925(c)
since the early 1900s. Accordingly, the only other ways for a
felon affected by § 922(g)(1) to restore his gun rights
are (1) through a Presidential pardon, or (2) an expungement
of the felony.
Government moved for summary judgment, arguing that (1) the
Second Amendment does not protect felons; and (2) even if it
does, § 922(g)(1) satisfies intermediate scrutiny
as-applied to felons like Hatfield. (Def.'s Mot. Summ.
J., ECF No. 41-2.) The Court held oral argument on the
matter, where Hatfield made a cross-motion for summary
judgment for the reasons stated within his response brief.
(See Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. Summ. J.,
ECF No. 47.)
judgment must be granted “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes
Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir.
2000). The Court must construe the evidence in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986);
Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F.3d 678, 685 (7th Cir.
2008); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396.
Second Amendment commands: “A well regulated Militia,
being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of
the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be
infringed.” Second Amendment rights, however, are not
dependent on militia service: the amendment chiefly protects
“the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of
self-defense.” McDonald v. City of Chicago,
Ill., 561 U.S. 742, 750 (2010) (citing District of
Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008)).
Heller explained that while the militia clause
announced one purpose of the amendment's codification-to
prevent the new federal government from disarming and
oppressing the People, much like the English tried to do to
the American Colonies-it had little to do with the central
component of the “ancient right” to bear arms
itself, which includes primary purposes like
“self-defense and hunting.” Heller, 554
U.S. at 599.
gave birth to this case through a much-discussed footnote in
the opinion. First, Heller instructs that nothing in
the opinion “should be taken to cast doubt on
longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by
felons.” Heller, 554 U.S. at 626-27. But then,
a footnote attached to that same paragraph reads: “We
identify these presumptively lawful
regulatory measures only as examples; our list does not
purport to be exhaustive.” Id. at 627 n.26
(emphasis added). The Seventh Circuit has already noted this
But the government does not get a free pass simply because
Congress has established a “categorical ban”; it
still must prove that the ban is constitutional, a mandate
that flows from Heller itself. Heller
referred to felon disarmament bans only as
“presumptively lawful, ” which, by implication,
means that there must exist the possibility that the ban
could be unconstitutional in the face of an as-applied
challenge. Therefore, putting the government through its
paces in proving the constitutionality of § 922(g)(1) is
United States v. Williams, 616 F.3d 685, 692 (7th
Cir. 2010) (internal citation omitted).
Seventh Circuit has since adopted a two-step inquiry for
Second Amendment claims: (1) does the challenged statute
cover conduct that falls within the Second Amendment's
protections; and (2) if so, does the statute survive
“some level of heightened scrutiny”? Baer v.
Lynch, 636 Fed.Appx. 695, 698 (7th Cir. 2016). The case
law applying this test, however, is messy. Some cases refuse
to analyze step one and immediately jump to step two.
Id.; United States v. Skoien, 614
F.3d 638 (7th Cir. 2010) (en banc);
Williams, 616 F.3d 685; Horsley v. Trame,
808 F.3d 1126 (7th Cir. 2015). One case blends the two steps
together. United States v. Yancey, 621 F.3d 681 (7th
Cir. 2010). Another case jumps the ship and asks if the
challenged regulation has “some reasonable relationship
to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated
militia, ” a test which contradicts Heller
itself. Friedman v. City of Highland Park, Illinois,
784 F.3d 406, 410 (7th Cir. 2015). There is only one
case-Ezell v. City of Chicago, 651 F.3d 684, 700-04
(7th Cir. 2011)-that engages in a thorough analysis of both
this entanglement, it is possible to boil down the relevant
case law to two steps. First, does the Second Amendment
protect felons in the same class as Hatfield? Second, if the
Second Amendment does protect felons like Hatfield, does