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Florida Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to felon gun law

A case of handguns at Harry Beckwith Guns & Range in Micanopy that are for sale. (Sarah Hower/WUFT News)
A case of handguns at Harry Beckwith Guns & Range in Micanopy that are for sale. (Sarah Hower/WUFT News)

The Florida Supreme Court has declined to take up a challenge to the constitutionality of a state law that bars possession of guns by convicted felons.

Justices on Monday issued an order rejecting an appeal by William Edenfield, who was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon after a 2020 shooting incident in Leon County. Edenfield went to the Supreme Court in August after the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected his Second Amendment arguments.

Edenfield’s challenge centered on a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case known as New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court required evaluating gun restrictions by whether they are consistent with the nation’s “historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

In an August brief filed at the Florida Supreme Court, Edenfield’s attorney, Tyler Kemper Payne, wrote that the 1st District Court of Appeal interpreted the Bruen decision to “read into the Second Amendment a limitation to only ‘law-abiding responsible citizens.’ Such a qualification is found nowhere in the Second Amendment’s controlling text. The district court cited almost no historical evidence in support of this limitation.”

“In short, the district court expressly construed the Second Amendment, a provision of the federal Constitution, by limiting its scope and finding the prohibition at issue historically supported,” Payne, an assistant public defender in the 2nd Judicial Circuit, wrote. “Petitioner (Edenfield) asks this (Florida Supreme) Court to accept jurisdiction to resolve whether Florida’s prohibition on felons from possessing firearms remains constitutional in the wake of Bruen.”

But in a brief filed in October, lawyers in Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court has “been clear that longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons do not infringe the Second Amendment.”

“Petitioner (Edenfield) cites no case in which a court has held that a felon-dispossession law is facially unconstitutional under the Second Amendment,” the state’s lawyers wrote. “On the contrary, the courts overwhelmingly have upheld the validity of felon-dispossession laws even after Bruen.”

As is common, the Florida Supreme Court on Monday did not explain its reasons for declining to take up the challenge.

But in a May 31 decision, a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal said a “review of the pertinent precedent from the United States Supreme Court on the Second Amendment shows that a felon, such as appellant (Edenfield), still cannot claim an unfettered constitutional right to possess a firearm post Bruen.”

The state’s brief filed at the Supreme Court said a jury convicted Edenfield of two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in the 2020 incident.

Edenfield, now 67, had previous convictions on theft and burglary charges, according to the Florida Department of Corrections website. He is an inmate at Blackwater Correctional Facility.

The News Service of Florida is a wire service to which WUFT News subscribes.