The U.S. Supreme Court turned down a Napa County man's challenge Tuesday of a California law that imposes a 10-year ban on gun ownership for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime involving violence or threats of force.
Rick Delacy's appeal was argued by a lawyer who also represents the National Rifle Association, and supporting arguments were also filed by the California Rifle and Pistol Association.
They contended gun restrictions based on convictions for misdemeanors, punishable by no more than a year in jail, violate the constitutional right to possess firearms for self-defense that the Supreme Court recognized in 2008.
They also argued that misdemeanor battery, Delacy's previous crime, is not necessarily violent. Although the law defines battery as a "willful and unlawful use of force or violence" against another, it can consist of touching someone in a harmful or offensive way without the person's consent.
The high court denied review without comment. The ruling left intact a February 2011 decision by a state appeals court in San Francisco upholding Delacy's conviction and the California law.
Delacy was on probation from his battery conviction when officers searched his home in April 2008 and found three rifles and a shotgun, said the appellate court, which did not give details of the battery. Another search six months later turned up two caches of shotgun shells. Delacy told officers he used the guns for hunting and hadn't been told he was prohibited from owning them.
He was convicted under a law that prohibits possession of guns or ammunition by anyone convicted within the past 10 years of one of about 40 misdemeanors, all involving either violence, threats or a dangerous mental condition. Delacy was sentenced to an additional three years of probation.
In upholding his convictions, the First District Court of Appeal noted that the Supreme Court's recent gun-rights decisions expressly left room for states to prohibit firearms ownership by convicted felons, including those whose crimes were nonviolent.
By the same reasoning, the appellate panel said, the Constitution allows the government to ban gun possession by misdemeanor criminals, including convicted batterers, "who have shown a propensity to commit violence against others."
The case is Delacy vs. California, 11-290.