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UNITED STATES V. BASS, 404 U. S. 336 (1971)

U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Bass, 404 U.S. 336 (1971)

United States v. Bass

No. 70-71

Argued October 18, 1971

Decided December 20, 1971

404 U.S. 336


Respondent was convicted of possessing firearms in violation of § 1202(a)(1) of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, which provides that a person convicted of a felony "who receives, possesses, or transports in commerce or affecting commerce . . . any firearm . . ." shall be punished as prescribed therein. The indictment did not allege and no attempt was made to show that the firearms involved had been possessed "in commerce or affecting commerce," the Government contending that the statute does not require proof of a connection with interstate commerce in individual cases involving possession or receipt. Doubting its constitutionality if the statute were thus construed, the Court of Appeals reversed.

Held: It is not clear from the language and legislative history of § 1202(a)(1) whether or not receipt or possession of a firearm by a convicted felon has to be shown in an individual prosecution to have been connected with interstate commerce. The ambiguity of this provision (which is not only a criminal statute but one whose broad construction would define as a federal offense conduct readily proscribed by the States), must therefore be resolved in favor of the narrower reading that a nexus with interstate commerce must be shown with respect to all three offenses embraced by the provision. Pp. 404 U. S. 339-351

434 F.2d 1296, affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which DOUGLAS, BRENNAN (except for Part III), STEWART, and WHITE, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a separate statement, post, p. 404 U. S. 351. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., joined, post, p. 404 U. S. 351.

Page 404 U. S. 337

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