"It shall be unlawful for any person.., who has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year ... to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition ...." Although this statute, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), was enacted to keep firearms out of the hands of persons not entitled to possess them because of their criminal backgrounds, the scope of this statute has been controversial. Specifically, the federal circuits have disagreed as to whether the phrase "any court" applies to foreign courts as well as to domestic ones. Recently, in Small v. United States, the Supreme Court settled the dispute and held that the phrase "'any court' refers only to domestic courts." The dissenting opinion, however, presents a more convincing argument than the majority opinion-that the text of the statute is unambiguous and the phrase "any court" should encompass convictions in foreign courts as well as domestic ones. Moreover, the rationale followed by the majority ignores the plain meaning of the statute as written by Congress and supplants it with anovel canon of interpretation that frustrates the purpose of the statute and creates a dangerous precedent for future cases of statutory interpretation. To restore the strength and purpose of American gun control legislation in the wake of Small, Congress should amend § 922(g)(1) to incorporate the language proposed in Senate Bill 954.' Part II of this note presents the background of § 922(g)(1), including a brief legislative history and an examination of the split in federal circuit court decisions over the meaning of "any court." Part III discusses the factual and procedural background of Small. Part IV analyzes the majority and dissenting opinions in Small and argues that the dissent is more congruous with established principles of statutory interpretation. Finally, Part V examines the potentially dangerous impacts of the majority opinion on public safety and separation of powers and argues that Senate Bill 954 should be enacted to preserve the purpose of § 922(g)(1).
Lee G. Lester,
Small v. United States: Defining "Any" As A Subset of "Any",
U. Rich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.richmond.edu/lawreview/vol40/iss2/9