A North Carolina law barring felons from owning firearms unfairly prevented a man from owning guns, the state Supreme Court has ruled, thrusting the court into the national debate over gun ownership, reports the Raleigh News and Observer. The opinion came in the case of Barney Britt, convicted of a drug crime in 1979, and it didn’t have an immediate effect on the thousands of other felons in the state. Criminal defense lawyers who practice in federal courts said they don’t know what effect, if any, the opinion will have on federal rules, which prevent felons from buying and owning weapons except when a state has restored that right.
The ruling authored by Justice Edward Thomas Brady held that Britt should be able to own guns and that the state unfairly took away his right to own a firearm with a 2004 law that barred felons from owning firearms. Both sides of the gun control issue saw the ruling as significant. The decision was seen as a victory for those who view government restrictions as too strict, while those in favor of tighter gun control described it as an alarming blow. “This has implications beyond just North Carolina,” said Robert Levy of the Cato Institute.