U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves has dismissed a gun possession case against a man convicted of a felony, citing a Supreme Court precedent he criticized last year and ruling convicted felons have a Second Amendment right to own a weapon.

His ruling appears to take shots at the high court’s expansion of gun rights over the last couple of decades, and Reeves said he hopes the U.S. Supreme Court starts to apply such expansive interpretations to the rights to vote, to a speedy trial and others.

READ MORE: Judge Carlton Reeves’ full ruling

Jessie Bullock served about 15 years on a manslaughter conviction in Mississippi after killing someone in a bar fight in 1992. In 2018, he was indicted for possessing a firearm in his home.

When Reeves was assigned the case last year, he made national news with his criticism of the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in a New York case that overturned some of that state’s restrictions on carrying guns. That Supreme Court decision held that because of the Second Amendment, any gun law must be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

Last year, Reeves criticized the high court, saying, “This court is not a trained historian. The Justices of the Supreme Court are not trained historians. And we are not experts in what white, wealthy, and male property owners thought about firearms regulation in 1791. Yet we are now expected to play historian in the name of constitutional adjudication.”

Reeves in his Wednesday order of dismissal noted that “no historian has expressed an opinion regarding the history of felon disarmament” and that neither the government nor Bullock had submitted any historical evidence or reports.

“This court did not want to be guilty of itself cherry-picking the history,” Reeves wrote in the order, adding that he asked the parties if he should appoint a professional historian as an independent expert. He said both sides declined.

He said federal prosecutors cited 120 federal court decisions upholding band on felons owning firearms, but “the government conceded that none of these courts has appointed an expert to help the sift through the historical record.”

Reeves said that under the high court’s historical test, state bans on firearms possession might fare better because they would be based on the principles of federalism.

Reeves also wrote: “This Court then discovered that an overwhelming majority of historians reject the Supreme Court’s most fundamental Second Amendment holding — its 2008 conclusion that the Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms, rather than a collective, Militia-based right.”

Reeves said: “In breathing new life into the Second Amendment, though, the Court has unintentionally revealed how it has suffocated other fundamental Constitutional rights,” Reeves wrote. “Americans are waiting for Heller and Bruen’s reasoning to reach the rest of the Constitution.”

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Geoff Pender serves as senior political reporter, working closely with Mississippi Today leadership on editorial strategy and investigations. Pender brings 30 years of political and government reporting experience to Mississippi Today. He was political and investigative editor at the Clarion Ledger, where he also penned a popular political column. He previously served as an investigative reporter and political editor at the Sun Herald, where he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for Hurricane Katrina coverage. Originally from Florence, Mississippi, Pender is a journalism graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and has received numerous awards throughout his career for reporting, columns and freedom of information efforts.