ArticlesVolume 14, Number 1 (2005)

Backfiring of the Domestic Violence Fire Arms Ban

Abstract

Dale Barsness was a convicted wife batterer. At the time of his conviction, he had a full and fair opportunity to be heard. He admitted in open court that he assaulted his wife, and the court found him guilty in a final adjudication of the matter. Because he was a convicted abuser, 18 U.S.C. ยง 922(g)(9), which prohibits all persons convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor from possessing firearms, applied to Barsness.

Barsness’s employer, the Minneapolis Police Department, required him to possess a gun. Since the federal law compelled Barsness to surrender his gun, he faced losing his job. A local judge took it upon himself to expunge Barsness’s domestic violence record, not because the matter was wrongly decided, or because it had been reversed and resolved in his favor,1 but simply because Barsness would otherwise be subject to suffer the consequences of the federal gun control law. The Hennepin County judge set aside Barsness’s adjudicated conviction, stating that because the federal law would force him to relinquish his gun and likely his job, the conviction created a “manifest injustice.” That local judge single-handedly overrode federal legislation, and Barsness was reissued his firearm and restored to his gun-carrying position (subject to appeal by the County Prosecutor).