Supreme Court Issues Opinion in Firearm Case


Exterior view of the U.S. Supreme Court building. | Image by Doublas Rissing, Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion on Tuesday in United States v. Taylor. The opinion clarifies the connection between a federal enhancement statute that mandates minimum penalties when a person uses a firearm in furtherance of a “crime of violence” and the Hobbs Act.

The decision comes at a time of tension between pro-gun and anti-gun legislators in Congress and state legislatures, following the school shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, in May.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 vote that 18 U.S. Code § 924 (c), which authorizes enhanced punishments in crimes conducted with firearms, did not apply to the case of United States v. Taylor. The court opined that the defendant’s attempted robbery, violating the Hobbs Act, did not amount to a “crime of violence.”

The Hobbs Act is a federal statute that makes it a federal crime to commit a robbery or extortion if there is an interstate element to the deed.

The Supreme Court reasoned that an “attempted Hobbs Act robbery does not qualify as a ‘crime of violence’ under [the enhancement statute, 18 U.S. Code § 924 (c)] because no element of the offense requires proof that the defendant used, attempted to use, or threatened to use force.”

In 2003, Justin Taylor and an accomplice attempted to rob a man who was going to purchase marijuana from them. Taylor’s accomplice ended up shooting and killing that man.

Taylor was charged with violating the Hobbs Act and for using a gun to do it. He pled guilty to both charges, receiving an additional 10-year sentence through the enhancement statute over what he would have gotten just for the robbery.

The Supreme Court vacated the additional 10-year sentence and ordered the lower district court to resentence Taylor on the Hobbs Act violation alone.

Taylor’s case was initially offloaded onto the U.S. Justice Department at a time when state officials in Virginia were attempting to reduce the murder rate in Richmond.

Authorities brought many gun-related cases to federal court instead of the state’s court, according to Yahoo! News.

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