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State Supreme Court overturns ruling on felon pistol license

The Washington State Supreme Court has overturned a lower court order that would have allowed a man convicted of juvenile felonies to get a concealed pistol license.

The court ruled Thursday that a federal prohibition still applies to his juvenile crimes, even though they were later ordered sealed.

The man, Jerry Barr, was convicted of crimes including a pair of Class A felonies in 1992, when he was a minor. In 2016, Barr successfully petitioned to have those records sealed, and then had his gun rights restored in a separate ruling on the basis that they were sealed, and that he had gone a number of years without reoffending.

But when Barr later that year sought a concealed pistol license from the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, the agency turned him down, citing his sealed felony convictions and a federal law that broadly prohibits gun ownership by felons. With its ruling Thursday, the court sided with the Sheriff's Office.

"Obviously I'm really disappointed in the ruling," said Barr's attorney, Vitaliy Kertchen, who advertises a specialty in firearm rights restoration cases, in a phone interview.

Kertchen said he thought the court should have put more weight on the fact that the felony records were sealed.

In an opinion supported by all eight of her colleagues, Justice Mary Yu wrote that the Sheriff's Office was correct to include the sealed juvenile crimes in its review of his history, and that they still count as disqualifying convictions under the federal ban.

The ruling overturned an order by the Washington State Court of Appeals that would have allowed Barr to get the license.

Rather than being treated as if they don't exist, sealed convictions are only removed from public view, Yu wrote, noting that they can be unsealed if a person reoffends.

But the Thursday ruling specifically stopped short of touching on a broader question: Whether a person with juvenile felonies that would normally disqualify them from owning a gun should be able to have their firearm rights restored if the convictions are later sealed.

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