U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced the No Firearms for Foreign Felons Act (S. 261), a bill to close a loophole that allows individuals convicted of a foreign felony or foreign crimes involving domestic violence to possess firearms in the United States.
"Under current federal law, individuals convicted in the United States of violent felonies like rape, murder and terrorism are prohibited from possessing firearms," said Senator Feinstein. "However, federal law does not bar criminals convicted of those same violent crimes in foreign courts from possessing guns. This legislation closes that loophole."
The loophole is the result of the 2005 Supreme Court decision in Small v. United States. In that case, the Supreme Court analyzed the 1968 Gun Control Act, which says anyone convicted of a felony "in any court" cannot possess a firearm. The Supreme Court concluded that the phrase applied only to U.S. courts.
These convictions are particularly important when an individual with a foreign felony is arrested for another crime. The foreign conviction allows the government to charge an additional crime--i.e., felon in possession of a firearm--or seek an enhanced sentence.
The No Firearms for Foreign Felons Act amends 18 U.S.C. § 921 and related provisions to clarify that the prohibition on firearm possession by individuals convicted of a felony or a crime involving domestic violence in "any court" includes any foreign court.
The legislation is being cosponsored by Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).