The ruling was based on North Carolina's state constitution. While I'm not a lawyer, from the descriptions by these two law professors it sounds like North Carolina's constitutonal right to bear arms is actually less strong than ours in Texas'. According to the North Carolina opinion, their constitutional standard reads that:
“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” This Court has held that regulation of the right to bear arms is a proper exercise of the General Assembly’s police power, but that any regulation must be at least “reasonable and not prohibitive, and must bear a fair relation to the preservation of the public peace and safety.”.So their standard reads much like the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, but the Tarheel Supreme Court was more fearless than Justice Scalia in noticing that there is no textual constitutional language limiting "shall not be infringed" to non-felons.
Given this ruling, I wonder if Texas might not prove fertile ground for pursuing ex-felons' gun rights? We've got more than a few pro-Second Amendment lower court judges, plus our constitutional standard is much more strongly stated as an individual right than the federal version or North Carolina's. Article 1, Sec. 23 declares, "RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS. Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms in the lawful defense of himself or the State; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime."
So if North Carolina's state constitution conveys a right to bear arms for ex-felons, the plain language in Texas' Constitution seems even more favorable to such arguments. Our version more firmly grounds the right with the individual instead of the needs of a "well-regulated militia," and it expressly incorporates self-defense as a justification for the affirmative right to bear arms.
Of course, in Texas the question often isn't "what is the law?," but "who is the judge?". And over the last decade on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the winds have not blown favorably on behalf of arguments for extending rights to offenders - even those from long ago. That's a strong argument for pessimism on the prosepects for extending gun rights to ex-felons, to be sure.
OTOH, it's remarkable to see North Carolina cross this philosophical Rubicon, and I can't help but notice that the plain language in our state constitution seems more receptive, even, to such arguments than theirs.
I'm glad Volokh and Berman are tracking this issue; it's definitely going to be one to watch playing out in the courts over the next several years.