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by Howard Fisher
Sunday, Jul. 02, 2006 at 2:30 PM
A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Friday reversed its earlier decision concerning homemade machine guns, basing its new opinion on a U.S. Supreme Court medical marijuana ruling
Robert Stewart gets screwed again by the courts.
Court backs conviction of machine-gun owner
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 07.01.2006
People can't legally make their own machine guns and escape federal prosecution, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.
In a unanimous ruling, the judges upheld the conviction of a Mesa man who is serving a five-year prison term for possession of five machine guns. The judges rejected arguments by Robert Stewart Jr. that Congress has no authority over items not involved in interstate commerce.
Stewart actually prevailed with those arguments three years ago.
That, however, was before the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case last year brought by people charged with possession of marijuana under federal law. They, too, argued the federal government had no legal authority over the drugs that never crossed state lines.
But the nation's high court said the fact the drugs could enter interstate commerce gave Congress jurisdiction to regulate their possession.
Federal Appeals Court Judge Alex Kozinski, who originally wrote in 2003 that Stewart's conviction was illegal, said Friday the Supreme Court ruling changes everything — and that the same logic applies here. Stewart's homemade machine guns eventually could cross state lines.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives got a search warrant for Stewart's home after he advertised on the Internet and in Shotgun News his kits for large-caliber rifles. Agents also determined Stewart had a conviction for possession and transfer of a machine gun.
Appeals court reverses early gun ruling
By Chris Metinko
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Friday reversed its earlier decision concerning homemade machine guns, basing its new opinion on a U.S. Supreme Court medical marijuana ruling.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the federal conviction of Robert Stewart of Mesa, Ariz., for illegal possession of five homemade machine guns. He is currently serving a five-year sentence for the crime.
In its 2003 ruling, the court said Stewart did not violate federal gun laws outlawing machine guns because he built the guns himself, therefore not affecting interstate commerce. Federal gun law is based on Congress' constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce.
That decision came into question last year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Oakland resident Angel Raich, a medical marijuana user. In that ruling, the court said Congress has the right to regulate homegrown marijuana in individual states because the marijuana could impact the supply and demand, thus also affecting interstate commerce.
After that decision was handed down, the high court asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to re-examine the Stewart case.
In the new ruling, 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski said homemade machine guns, like homegrown marijuana, has a market and therefore could impact interstate commerce. Therefore, Congress would have the power to regulate sales of such guns.
"Homemade guns, even those with a unique design, can enter the interstate market and affect supply and demand," Kozinski wrote. "We therefore hold that Congress had a rational basis for concluding ... possession of homemade machine guns could substantially affect interstate commerce in machine guns."
Thomas Haney, Stewart's attorney, said this was likely the end to the 6-year-old case.
Reach Chris Metinko at 510-763-5418 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
High court's Calif. pot ruling also outlaws homemade machine guns
SAN FRANCISCO A recent Supreme Court ruling that Congress can ban homegrown marijuana for medical use in California has made an impact on a seperate case involving a man and his machine guns.
In the machine gun case, the Ninth U-S Circuit Court of Appeals today reinstated the convictions of Robert Wilson Stewart, of Mesa, Arizona. The three-judge panel reversed its own previous decision to overturn the convictions because he never tried to sell his weapons or transport them over state lines.
The marijuana ruling is what the machine gun charges stick.
In the marijuana case, the majority of Supreme Court justices ruled that the interstate commerce clause makes California's medical marijuana law illegal.
The Supreme Court said homegrown marijuana confined to the state still can affect the entire national market for the drug, allowing for federal regulation.
High court's Calif. pot ruling also outlaws homemade machine guns
SAN FRANCISCO - A recent Supreme Court ruling that Congress can ban homegrown marijuana for medical use in California led Friday to the reinstatement of an Arizona man's overturned conviction for having homemade machine guns.
Prosecutors in both cases invoked the Constitution's interstate commerce clause, despite the fact that the cases centered on items that were homemade, or homegrown, and didn't involve commerce or crossing state lines. The courts ruled, however, that the items still can affect interstate commerce and therefore can be regulated by federal law.
In the machine gun case, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday reinstated the convictions of Robert Wilson Stewart, 67, of Mesa, Ariz. The three-judge panel reversed its own previous decision to overturn the convictions because he never tried to sell his weapons or transport them over state lines.
Federal agents raided Stewart's house in June 2000 and found five machine guns, which Stewart argued did not violate the congressionally mandated ban on certain assault weapons because they were homemade and not for sale. The appellate court initially agreed with Stewart and overturned his convictions in 2003, ruling the interstate commerce clause did not apply.
The three-judge panel, however, was ordered by the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision after the justices ruled in 2005 that the federal government could prosecute medical marijuana users and their suppliers even if their activity was confined to California.
In the marijuana case, brought by Oakland resident Angel Raich, the majority of Supreme Court justices ruled that the interstate commerce clause makes California's medical marijuana law illegal. The court said homegrown marijuana confined to the state still can affect the entire national market for the drug, allowing for federal regulation.
The same rationale was applied by the appeals court in the homemade machine gun case.
The judges unanimously ruled Friday that Stewart's guns "might bleed into the interstate market and affect supply and demand" and that such items can be federally regulated "especially in an area where Congress regulates comprehensively."
Federal prosecutor John Tuchi said the government appealed Stewart's case to protect the criminal prosecution powers of the commerce clause, which is invoked only in criminal matters involving drugs, child pornography and guns.
"We didn't want any of that eroded," Tuchi said.
Thomas Haney, the Phoenix attorney who represented Stewart, said his client does not intend to appeal the latest decision reinstating his five-year prison sentence imposed in 2002. Once Stewart completes that sentence he must serve another 24 years after he was convicted of soliciting the murder of the federal judge presiding over his machine gun trial.
"Given the Raich case, the major issue about homemade machine guns is resolved," Haney said.
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