Since 1983, Jack Alpert has had a Federal Firearms License (FFL), bought and sold firearms, and in 2007 started Missouri Bullet Company (MBC). The rural Johnson County, home-based operation specializes in casting lead bullets for handloaders, currently employs ten people and is now one of the largest cast bullet manufacturers in the country.
Alpert retired from his job as an administrator with the Board of Public Utilities in Kansas City and decided to take his love for shooting and reloading and turn it into a business to supplement his retirement income. For all intents and purposes, Alpert was a pillar of the community and led an exemplary life for over 30 years. But in 2008, his past caught up with him.
Back in the early 70’s, Alpert had two felony convictions for possession of drugs ($25 worth of Benzedrine tablets) In both cases, Alpert served less than a year in jail. Case closed. Felons cannot possess firearms, right?
FELONS WITH FIREARMS . . . LEGAL?
In 1965, Congress passed an amendment to the Federal Firearms Act of 1938 that allowed felons to apply for relief from the disability prohibiting possession of firearms. The amended law required that a felon would have to convince the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) that he was not a risk to the safety of the public, given the circumstances surrounding the crime and subsequent conviction. If successful, the felon could then be granted the right to own guns legally.
In 1983, Alpert successfully petitioned the federal government and his right to possess firearms was restored. In 1986, Alpert applied for and was granted his Federal Firearms License (FFL) and was now legal to operate as a firearms dealer. Alpert began buying and selling firearms. He had no problems renewing his FFL every three years as required.
All was right with the world. That is until he decided to expand his manufacturing line at MBC.
WHAT THE LAW GRANTED, THE LAW TOOK AWAY
In 2010, Alpert wanted to expand manufacturing line to include ammunition. He bought tens of thousands of dollars of additional equipment and applied to renew his FFL. However, he was informed that he was no longer eligible because of a 2008 change in Missouri law barring convicted felons from possessing firearms. (His firm was still granted a federal license to continue manufacturing bullets.)
From 1983 until 2008, it was legal for Alpert to possess guns. During that period of time, Missouri law made it a crime for an individual convicted of a “dangerous felony” to possess a gun. That did not apply to Alpert’s situation. But in 2008, the Missouri Legislature amended section 571.070 of the Missouri Revised Statutes to make it a crime for a person convicted of any felony to possess firearms. That included Alpert.
Alpert could no longer possess two family heirlooms nor even test his own company’s product. He, therefore, decided against expanding his manufacturing to include ammunition since it would be illegal for him to test the product himself.
LEGAL CHALLENGE BROUGHT BEFORE THE COURT
So, on June 1, 2015 Alpert filed suit against the State of Missouri. Alpert was seeking a declaratory judgment that Section 571.070 violated his rights under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and article I, section 23 of the Missouri Constitution and interfered with his ability to defend himself and his family, and with his ability to earn a living.
After a Circuit Court denied his claim on October 3, 2016, Alpert appealed the matter to the Missouri Supreme Court. One year later, on Wednesday, October 4, 2017, the Supreme Court heard arguments from Alpert’s attorney and the Missouri Attorney General’s office on the issues presented in Alpert’s petition.
The State took a position that Alpert that Alpert does not have standing to bring the case because he does not own any guns he could fight in court to keep, arguing that “there’s no way to argue that the law violates his rights prior in advance of the law being enforced against him.”
By that circular logic, Alpert’s attorney argued Alpert would have to go out and commit a felony and possess a firearm in order to bring his case before a court, something Alpert was not going to do.
As is typical in Supreme Court cases, the Justices will take the matter under advisement and issue its ruling at some time in the future.