Wyoming Sues Federal Agency Over Gun Rights

Wyoming is suing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, saying the federal agency illegally rejected a state law allowing people who have misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence to win back their right to own guns.

John Powell, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney Matt Mead in Cheyenne, said Mead's office was still reviewing the lawsuit filed Monday.

Federal law prohibits anyone convicted of "a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" from possessing a firearm. In 1986, Congress amended the law to allow states to set rules for restoring gun rights to people who have been pardoned or whose convictions have been expunged, or set aside.

In 2004, Wyoming's legislature unanimously passed a law saying individuals would have to wait one year after completing their sentence. They would not qualify if their misdemeanor conviction involved the use or attempted use of a firearm and they could not have any other convictions that prohibit them from owning guns.

Wyoming's law stated that a record of the expunged conviction would be kept by the state Division of Criminal Investigation and could be used to enhance penalties for future convictions.

In August 2004, shortly after Wyoming's law was passed, ATF Special Agent Lester Martz wrote to Crank, saying the federal law applied only to convictions that were completely eliminated.