For well over thirty years, courts across the nation maintained an interpretational unanimity in applying 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) in thousands of cases. This law specifies that a defendant commits a crime if they were previously convicted of a felony and then later possess a firearm in or affecting commerce. Under the original statutory interpretation, the government was only required to prove that a person knew of their possession of a firearm. However, in 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned that traditional understanding. Under the more recent interpretation, the government is required to prove not only that a person knew of their possession of a firearm but also that they knew they were a convicted felon at the time of said possession. There is significant importance in requiring a culpable mental state where statutory elements criminalize otherwise innocent conduct. However, proving such a high mens rea is inherently difficult and stunts successful prosecutions. Thus, this Note acknowledges the many arguments that challenge the Supreme Court’s decision based on its harmful effect on prosecutions and inconsistency with public opinion.

More importantly, however, this Note establishes how state legislatures and courts must respond in light of this new, binding precedent. Both should adopt approaches that would avoid the need to prosecute altogether under the strenuous impositions of Rehaif v. United States. But further, in the event of unavoidable prosecution, both should take measures that enhance the chance to obtain convictions favorable to public safety. Overall, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) does more to combat gun violence than any other law, and we must act to mitigate the effect of the increased mens rea requirement imposed by Rehaif.