The Supreme Court ruled unanimously this week that a convicted felon, who is prohibited from possessing handguns, may sell his or her handguns rather than just having to surrender them. In fact, in this case, the defendant's weapons had already been confiscated - and the government attempted to block the sale to a third party.
Tony Henderson, a former U.S. Border Patrol agent, had agreed to turn over his collection of 19 firearms to the FBI as a condition of release after he was arrested and charged with distributing marijuana. Subsequently, he sought to sell them to a friend, or transfer them to his wife. Lower courts held that putting them into the hands of the intended transferees was equivalent to Mr. Henderson still possessing them.
Not so, say the justices, who noted that the law would go too far if it were applied in that way.
Now, the government still has the duty and right to ensure that weapons, once sold, won't be put back into a defendant's control. There can be no "sham" transactions. But these are already prohibited by the law on straw purchases of firearms. Any individual who falsely attests that he is the intended owner of the gun, when in fact he intends to transfer it to a third party, can be charged with a federal crime.
All in all, this is good news for those who lose their right to bear arms. They can be fairly compensated for their weapons if they can arrange a sale.