An Argument in Favor of Restoring Gun Rights for Convicted Felons

The issues of what crimes should bar a person from gun ownership, how long such a ban on gun ownership should last, and when a person should be able to have their gun rights restored are often hotly debated.

As an attorney who handles criminal defense cases (including gun-related charges), as well as gun rights restoration cases, I am of the opinion that our current laws that impose a lifetime ban on gun ownership for those convicted of a great many different types of crimes is an unwise approach that does little to prevent crimes yet does cause great hardship to many people.  The reasoning I use to reach that conclusion follows.

Back in 2008, I wrote an article for my gun rights website in which I argued that a blanket ban on all felons ever lawfully possessing a gun was both overbroad and underbroad, and as such was a misguided law.  To briefly recap, such a ban is overbroad because it bars many people who were convicted of a non-violent offense from possessing a gun.  For example, a tax evasion conviction does not suggest that a person is violent and therefore poses a risk to the community if they possess a gun.  Such a ban is also underbroad as many people who are convicted of crimes of violence that are not felonies (e.g. a serious felony battery charge that is pled down to a misdemeanor) are not covered by the ban.  In 2012, I wrote a follow-up article that further discussed how the realities of the legal system are such that the ban is even more overbroad and underbroad than one might think, and how such bans on gun ownership lead to inequitable results that cannot be justified by the goal of preventing crime.

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Beyond those arguments based upon how the legal system works, there is an important factual argument to consider when thinking about gun rights for convicted felons, and that is that a law banning gun ownership for a certain class of people is generally a very ineffective law, which those bent on committing a crime will easily circumvent.  That should come as no surprise, as a person willing to commit a murder which could land them in prison for the rest of their life will not fear a gun charge that carries a lesser sentence.  Thus, the ban on every felon possessing a gun does nothing to deter those people who intend to commit a violent crime, and instead only serves to (wrongfully) disarm the people who have changed their lives for the better and no longer engage in criminality.

Instead, such bans just mean that there are fewer Americans lawfully armed for self defense, which is not a good thing for society.  Remember, america’s concealed carry permit holders have demonstrated themselves to be law abiding, less likely to shoot the wrong person than the police, and imminently capable of effectively using their guns in self defense.  They have stopped would-be murderers, rapists, home invaders, robbers, and other violent criminals, saving themselves, their loved ones, and police officers.   Such armed citizens are also less likely than the police to shoot the wrong person when acting in self defense.

Against that backdrop, it is my considered opinion that the laws at the State and Federal level should be changed to allow those who have been convicted of felonies long ago that did not involve violence to have their gun rights automatically restored.  Given the political climate in the country, I doubt that is likely to happen anytime soon.  That means that those who have been convicted of a felony (or are otherwise disqualified from owning a gun) will have to look to gun rights restoration in order to try and restore their right to keep and bear arms.

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