Court refuses gun rights appeal of man with misdemeanor record

A federal court this week dismissed the case of an Ohio man who sought to have his firearms rights restored after a misdemeanor domestic violence charge 18 years ago.

In 1997, Terry Lee Stimmel pleaded no contest to first-degree misdemeanor charges of domestic violence upon his wife at the time in Canton Municipal Court. Other than a few traffic tickets, Stimmel had no other criminal history.

Then in 2002, when attempting to purchase a firearm over the counter at his local Wal-Mart, he was denied through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System due to his criminal record. A subsequent administrative appeal to the FBI was denied as well.

This led Stimmel to file suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio last September challenging the framework of his lifetime firearm ban, stating he wanted to purchase and own a firearm for the purpose of defending his home and his family and was denied his rights to do so under the Constitution. As Stimmel is not prohibited from owning firearms under Ohio law, he challenged the federal prohibition as an overreach.

Judge John R. Adams, a 2003 appointment by President George W. Bush, did not agree. Citing the majority Supreme Court opinion in the 2008 Heller case, Adams prefaced his opinion published Monday by writing, “[T]his Court must be mindful that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms ‘is not unlimited.'”

Further, despite Stimmel’s assertion that the Second Amendment predated modern domestic violence statutes, Adams pointed out that at least six circuit courts have upheld firearms prohibition on the grounds of misdemeanor domestic convictions in recent years.

To a challenge that Stimmel has been otherwise law-abiding since his 20th Century conviction, Adams was further not impressed, saying the Ohio man “is not afforded rights simply by virtue of being conviction-free for numerous years,” and chided Stimmel for not seeking an executive pardon despite the fact they are rarely granted on domestic violence issues.

As noted by FBI statistics, misdemeanor domestic violence conviction records are the third most common reason for NICS background check denials. Between Nov. 1998 and Aug. 2015, some 117,451 checks were denied for that reason.