A former Blanding city councilman pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to the illegal possession of a firearm — but still intends to pursue his constitutional challenge of the federal Violence Against Women Act.

Randee Lee Bayles' plea change was conditional on his ability to appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals a recent decision by U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball not to dismiss the case, according to prosecutor Brett Tolman.

Bayles argued that his constitutional right to bear arms supersedes the federal act, which prohibits a person subject to a protective order from possessing a firearm.

Bayles' former wife, Jeroldene Bailey, asked a San Juan County judge for a protective order in July 1998.

Court documents indicated that Bayles was physically abusive and threatened Bailey throughout their 27-year marriage.

The judge eventually ordered Bayles not to have any contact with his ex-wife.

Undercover federal agents met with Bayles while he was under that order, and he bragged about owning "approximately 100 rifles and between 75 and 85 handguns," according to the indictment.

Prosecutors say Bayles also admitted to the agent that "due to a protective order that his ex-wife had obtained from the courts, he had moved most of his guns to a location away from his house," but that he had some guns in his house for hunting and two handguns in his truck.

Bayles then showed the handguns to the undercover agent, according to court documents.

At the time of his ruling, Kimball said that no federal courts of appeal had dealt with a Second Amendment challenge to the Violence Against Women Act but that numerous circuit courts "have determined that the Second Amendment protects only a collective right on the part of the state to arm a militia — not an individual right to bear arms."

With the exception of a case in Texas, Kimball said, every district court that has addressed the question has found the statute to be constitutional.

Bayles pleaded guilty to the possession charge to speed up the appeals process.

"He is acknowledging that there was possession and that yes, he was under a protective order," Tolman said. "But he'll argue that he thinks the law is wrong."

E-mail: mtitze@desnews.com