DENVER (Reuters) - Illegal immigrants can be prohibited from possessing firearms under laws passed by Congress that bar certain groups from gun ownership, a federal appeals court has ruled.
A three-judge panel in Denver agreed with a prison sentence imposed by a Wyoming federal judge on a Mexican national who pleaded guilty to illegal weapons possession.
In the opinion made public on Monday, the judges said even non-citizens in the United States on visas for legitimate reasons face restrictions on firearms possession.
“Even those admitted on non-immigrant visas ... are prohibited from having firearms and ammunition unless they secure a special waiver or happen to be hunters or diplomatic or law-enforcement officials here on business,” the judges wrote.
The case stemmed from the conviction of Emmanuel Huitron-Guizar, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison under a federal law that bars gun ownership by illegal aliens.
He will be turned over to immigration officials at the end of his prison term for deportation proceedings.
Born in Mexico, Huitron-Guizar, 24, came to the United States at the age of three and settled with his family in Wyoming.
Acting on a warrant, federal agents searched his home last year and found a rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and a semiautomatic pistol and arrested him.
Huitron-Guizar ultimately pleaded guilty to the charges, but appealed his sentence, arguing that he did not fall under groups including convicted felons, the mentally ill or others who are banned from owning firearms.
But the appellate court disagreed, noting that “no right is absolute,” and cited as an example a law that prohibits unauthorized people from carrying guns on commercial aircraft.
Huitron-Guizar’s lawyer, Ronald Pretty, told Reuters he will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Pretty said his client has no criminal history, came to the United States as a toddler, has no real ties to Mexico and does not speak Spanish.
Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune