Child Support and Losing Your Guns

Few people know that failing to pay child support can mean losing your guns. One father went before the Wisconsin Supreme Court to argue that his lifetime ban on owning a firearm was unconstitutional because his conviction for failure to pay child support didn’t justify such a ban.

Child support and guns

Brewing a Constitutional Challenge

In 2003, a child’s Father, Leevan Roundtree, failed to pay his child support for 120 days almost 13-years ago. As a result, he was convicted of multiple felony counts for failure to support a child. He wasn’t sent to prison, he made full restitution by paying what he owed and never reoffended. He’s never been convicted of a violent crime and there was no evidence he posed a danger to society.

One day, Milwaukee police executing a search warrant at Roundtree’s home found a revolver and ammunition under his mattress. A record check of the recovered gun revealed that it had been stolen in Texas.

Roundtree claimed that “he purchased the firearm from a kid on the street about a year ago, but that he did not know it was stolen.” The State charged Roundtree with a single count of possession of a firearm by a felon. He pleaded guilty and was subsequently sentenced to 18 months of initial confinement and 18 months of extended supervision.

As a consequence of his felony convictions, Roundtree was, and continues to be, permanently prohibited from possessing a firearm. Roundtree moved for relief, arguing that the felon-in-possession statute, which prohibits felons from owning a firearm, was unconstitutional as applied to him.

Florida Child Support

I’ve written about child support issues in Florida before. Calculating child support in Florida used to be entirely at the judge’s discretion, based on a parent’s ability to pay, and the child’s needs.

Florida established child support guidelines which follows the income shares model. The guidelines provide the amount you pay can be adjusted upward or downward after considering relevant factors.

Additionally, the statute authorizes deviations by more than 5 percent, pursuant to a list of 10 enumerated factors, and one equitable factor. Finally, the statue mandates use of a gross-up calculation of support for substantial time-sharing.

In Florida, parents are allowed a gross-up calculation because when exercising substantial time-sharing, they incur their own child care expenses, and may duplicate payment for items already included in their child support.

High income parents have special problems in determining child support. Courts are reluctant to award child support that is deemed “excessive,” but the courts are bound by child support guidelines which set a presumptive amount of support.

Like Wisconsin, Florida makes it unlawful for any person to own or to have in his or her care, custody, possession, or control any firearm, ammunition, or electric weapon or device, or to carry a concealed weapon, including a tear gas gun or chemical weapon or device, if that person has been convicted of a felony in the courts of this state

Badgering the Wisconsin Supreme Court

In determining the constitutionality of the felony possession statute, the Wisconsin Supreme Court applied an intermediate scrutiny test, reasoning:

“felon dispossession statutes are ‘presumptively lawful,’ and upholds the flat ban on gun possession by all felons on the grounds that someone with a felony conviction on his record is more likely than a non-felon to engage in illegal and violent gun use.”

So, even if Roundtree didn’t exhibit signs of violence, the Wisconsin Supreme Court felt it was reasonable to keep guns out of the hands of people who have shown a willingness to commit a felony. Also, other courts have observed that nonviolent offenders have a higher recidivism rate and a large percentage of the crimes nonviolent recidivists later commit are violent.

But there were also dissenting opinions. One justice reasoned that the ban on firearm possession by non-dangerous felons were categorically invalid as applied to persons entitled to Second Amendment protection.

Another justice complained that the “correlation-centric reasoning” — that there is a correlation between past non-violent crime of any sort and future violent crime — does not meet the mark.

One dissenter asked:

What about the correlation between people who previously declared bankruptcy? Are they more likely to commit violent crime in the future? How about people who don’t have a bachelor’s degree by the time they are 25? How about those who were born out of wedlock, or who fall below the poverty line?

The Reason article is here.

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