Tony Henderson was an agent with the United States Border Patrol. He is a gun owner and maintained his own personal firearms collection. He also liked to smoke marijuana and the practice ran afoul of federal law. A decade ago, he was arrested and charged with felony possession of the controlled substance. Upon release from bail, he was ordered to surrender his firearm collection to authorities. By 2006, his case was adjudicated with him accepting a felony guilty plea. Federal law bars him from owning firearms. As a result, he sought to sell the collection either to a friend or to his wife. The government objected and the matter went to court. The lower court sided with the feds stating that allowing Henderson to direct the sale of the firearms was tantamount to “constructive possession” of them. Henderson appealed the ruling.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously 9-0 to overturn the lower court ruling. Even the liberal justices, who are not pro-second amendment, concluded the lower court exceeded their authority and infringed upon Henderson’s property rights. The court acknowledged that Henderson cannot take possession of the firearm collection given his felony status. However, they affirmed that he has the right to direct the sale of the weapons to a third party dealer or individual. At the same time, whoever takes ownership of the firearms must reasonably assure authorities that the original gun owner will not have access to them. Mikal Watts understands this school of thinking well.