Yesterday, the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld a federal law that makes it illegal for undocumented immigrants to own firearms. The Tenth Circuit includes Utah, but the case, United States v. Huitron-Guizar, arose out of Wyoming when Emmanuel Huitron-Guizar was arrested for owning three firearms. To challenge the constitutionality of the congressional law, Mr. Huitron-Guizar relied on language in District of Columbia v. Heller, which seemed to suggest that owning a firearm is an “individual right.”
The Tenth Circuit didn’t say whether a permanent resident or other immigrants can be denied firearms. The Supreme Court generally allows Congress to distinguish between citizens and non-citizens or to distinguish between undocumented aliens and legal aliens. As the Tenth Circuit noted, Congress has the power under the Constitution to determine rules for citizenship and to govern immigrants who seek citizenship.
What most interests me about this case, however, is that Mr. Huitron-Guizar has lived in the United States since he was three years old. He is now 24 years old, and he has lived in Wyoming for the greater part of 21 years. Now he is waiting deportation to Mexico, where he likely does not remember living. The particular firearms he owned would not have been illegal for him to possess if he had been a citizen.