THE LATEST THINKING
The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.
Felons and the Second Amendment
Should felons have their Second Amendment rights restored? It’s a legitimate question that should be examined a little more closely. The ban on gun ownership is one of those blanket laws that never seem to work, yet neither side is willing to compromise. Maybe it’s time for common sense to enter the battle.
Congress passed the National Firearms Act in 1934, which made it illegal for a felon convicted of a violent crime to own a firearm. In 1968, President Johnson signed the Gun Control Act into law. Although the primary purpose of the law was regulation of the interstate transfer of firearms, it also made it illegal for anyone convicted of a felony punishable with imprisonment of at least a year to own a firearm.
Some states allow a felon to recover their Second Amendment rights after a period of time, but any time state law and federal law are in conflict, federal law prevails. This means a felon who has their state right restored is still violating federal law.
Federal law provides a few ways for felons to have their rights restored. A felon can obtain relief if they can convince the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that they are no longer a risk to the safety of the public. People who have had their conviction expunged, have been pardoned or have had their civil rights restored are not considered “convicted” under federal law.
It is my opinion that any time a blanket ban can remove any constitutional right from any segment of the population, it ceases to be a right and becomes a privilege. Privileges can be removed at any time. Once removal of one right becomes acceptable, all other rights are at risk.
I also agree that some people should not have guns. The question is, how do you accomplish this without violating a person’s Second Amendment right to bear arms?
There are many felons whose only desire to own a gun is for target practice and/or hunting. These people are not a threat to society. The firearm ban in these cases is no more than continued punishment after they have served their sentences. These people should be allowed a process to own firearms for those purposes even while they are on parole.
What about those who should not have a gun? I believe it is possible to ensure that without taking away their Second Amendment right. Make the penalty for possession or use of a firearm while committing a crime so high that it is unacceptable to anybody who considers it.
Use of a firearm in the commission of a felony carries a sentence aggravator, meaning a few more years get added to the sentence. Forget sentence aggravators. Make it a separate felony with a mandatory sentence of 10 years or more, which must be served consecutively to any other convictions and for which the felon cannot receive good time.
In other words, if a person robs a convenience store using a firearm, they must serve at least 10 years, in it’s entirety, before they begin serving time for the robbery. A second conviction for using a firearm in a crime should automatically carry a sentence of life.
Maybe it’s time for common sense compromises to enter the gun debate. All or nothing isn’t working for either side.
Former Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens on Tuesday called for the repeal of the Second Amendment, the constitutional...