Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ballots no, bullets yes

According to an article in last Sunday's New York Times:
Under federal law, people with felony convictions forfeit their right to bear arms. Yet every year, thousands of felons across the country have those rights reinstated, often with little or no review. In several states, they include people convicted of violent crimes, including first-degree murder and manslaughter, an examination by The New York Times has found.

While previously a small number of felons were able to reclaim their gun rights, the process became commonplace in many states in the late 1980s, after Congress started allowing state laws to dictate these reinstatements — part of an overhaul of federal gun laws orchestrated by the National Rifle Association. The restoration movement has gathered force in recent years, as gun rights advocates have sought to capitalize on the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms.

This gradual pulling back of what many Americans have unquestioningly assumed was a blanket prohibition has drawn relatively little public notice. Indeed, state law enforcement agencies have scant information, if any, on which felons are getting their gun rights back, let alone how many have gone on to commit new crimes.

While many states continue to make it very difficult for felons to get their gun rights back — and federal felons are out of luck without a presidential pardon — many other jurisdictions are far more lenient, The Times found. In some, restoration is automatic for nonviolent felons as soon as they complete their sentences. In others, the decision is left up to judges, but the standards are generally vague, the process often perfunctory. In some states, even violent felons face a relatively low bar, with no waiting period before they can apply. [....]

Even some felons who have regained their firearms rights say the process needs to be more rigorous.

“It’s kind of spooky, isn’t it?” said Beau Krueger, who has two assaults on his record and got his gun rights back last year in Minnesota after only a brief hearing, in which local prosecutors did not even participate. “We could have all kinds of crazy hoodlums out here with guns that shouldn’t have guns.” [....]
Is this nuts? Not necessarily. Kelly Kleiman (at The Reality-Based Community) finds the logic here:
Well, this makes sense–if we make it nearly impossible for felons to regain their right to vote [JW: see here], they’ll surely want to regain their right to fire weapons instead.
—Jeff Weintraub

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