I’m all for tough sentences for violent criminals in general, and criminals guilty of gun violence in particular. But once a criminal has served his or her sentence, they should have all their Constitutional rights restored. Yes, this includes child molesters and other sex offenders. Wait! If these deranged criminals are too dangerous to place in society—and I believe they are—they should be sentenced to life in prison without parole or worse. But this idea of creating two classes of citizens—one with full rights and one without—is profoundly un-American.

Parole conditions are a slippery slope to that division. In this belief I am mostly alone. Even though a circuit court judge has struck down Baltimore’s gun offender registry, even though he called it unconstitutional, the principle remains.

The baltimoresun.com reports . . .

Baltimore’s gun offender registry is unconstitutional, a Circuit Court judge ruled Friday, calling into question one of the city’s signature programs against gun violence.

Judge Alfred Nance said the Police Department had “failed or refused to comply” with establishing clear regulations for the registry, which required people convicted of gun crimes to provide addresses and other information with the city every six months for a period of three years.

The city judge also called the program, created in 2007, “unconstitutionally vague and overly broad.” Among the data registrants must provide, according to a list, is “any other information required by the rules and regulations adopted by the Police Commissioner,” language that Nance said appeared to give police “limitless discretion.” The city said it was considering whether to appeal.

Again, the judge is OK with the idea of a registry. He just doesn’t like the way it’s being implemented:

Nance said the city could legally create a gun offender registry, but the Police Department had failed to give “reasonable guidance and fair notice to the public” on the specifics of the law. “The rules and regulations are not simply unclear, they are unknown and unreviewable outside of the walls of the Police Department,” he wrote.

Prosecutors argued that there is ample discussion of the expectations — at sentencing hearings, through a printed acknowledgment form, and inquiries at the time of registration, according to court papers

Nance disagreed, saying that placed the burden on defendants to “go to the bowels of the Police Department to learn what constitutes the law and then instantly comply with its requirements or be found in violation of the law.” Insley said the public defender’s office was concerned that police could use the registration process to quiz defendants about recent crimes or demand cooperation in other investigations.

“They could ask you ‘There was a shooting on this block, what do you know about it?’ basically under threat of locking you up for failure to comply with the gun offender registry,” he said, although he was unaware of such instances.

21 Responses to Judge Strikes Down Baltimore Gun Offender Registry

  1. “The rules and regulations are not simply unclear, they are unknown and unreviewable outside of the walls of the Police Department,” the judge said.

    It sounds exactly like “may issue” laws that require “good cause,” which is undefined and unknown outside the office of the issuing authority. And while declinations for lack of good cause shown are not unreviewable, the standard of review is “arbitrary and capricious,” which is a very high threshold that nobody seems to overcome.

  2. But once a criminal has served his or her sentence, they should have all their Constitutional rights restored. Yes, this includes child molesters and other sex offenders. Wait! If these deranged criminals are too dangerous to place in society—and I believe they are—they should be sentenced to life in prison without parole or worse.

    I don’t understand why we can’t change the sentencing guidelines for these kinds of crimes. Second offense ( or first if it’s egregious enough) cut their balls off and bury them under the jail. In the ’80s in an effort to re-introduce Jim Crow there was no trouble changing the sentencing for cocaine possessed in rock form.

    I think that going with civil commitment and registry laws instead of increasing the sentences was a deliberate ruse by George Soros or the Illuminati or Col. Sanders or whoever is actually running this mad house to circumvent the Constitution.

  3. I’m with you most of the time, but child molesters and sex offenders are the lowest of scum and should never have any rights. Even other criminals hate these lowlifes and they take extra special care of these morons in prison. These scum are often released much to soon and rarely receive the jail terms they deserve, so I’m not willing to give them anything when they get out and go looking for another innocent victim.

  4. I am also of the opinion that once someone has served their prison sentence and successfully completed their probation/parole program, they should have all rights and responsibilities restored to that of the average citizen. Same for bank robbers as for child molesters.

    Hence the saying, “Paid his debt to society.”

  5. It sounds a little black-and-white to me. Don’t we need a gray area for all those who aren’t bad enough to be locked up but for varying reasons have proven too irresponsible to handle gun rights safely?

  6. “But this idea of creating two classes of citizens—one with full rights and one without—is profoundly un-American.”

    Ehhh…. not so much. We’ve done this as long as we’ve been a nation. Felons used to lose a lot more rights — permanently — than they do now. You can say it’s a bad idea, but it’s hard to argue that it’s un-American.

    Someone mentioned the idea of a criminal having “paid their debt to society.” That’s always struck me as one of the most misleading, wrong-headed examples of bumper-sticker philosophy ever to permeate the public consciousness. Someone who commits a crime and then serves a sentence is not morally in the same position as someone who never offended. This should be obvious in the case of certain serious crimes. Is a rapist or murderer or child molester who serves some years in prison transformed into a morally normal citizen after release? Is society required to forgive and forget?

    It’s easy to say, “restore all their rights or else lock them up forever,” but that’s unrealistic. Even most murderers get less than life in prison. Rapists get far less. We can’t lock them all up forever because: a) we can’t afford it; b) society wouldn’t tolerate it; and c) juries would respond by making it even harder to convict than it already is.

    If anything, I think we’ve gone too far in the direction you propose, and away from our traditional American approach. People convicted of serious felonies should lose many of their civil rights — permanently.

  7. I mostly agree that once a person has served their time, they should have all their constitutional rights restored. But, as far as child molesters go, I think they should be put under the jail for life. Once a child molester, always a child molester. The recidivism rate is extremely high for pedophiles.

    • Source, please? As the mother of a registered sex offender, I take extreme offense to your wanting to put my son under a jail. The result of his sex offense, my beautiful granddaughter, visited her daddy while he was in that jail. While I believe in punishment for being 17 and getting your 15-year-old girlfriend pregnant, I hardly believe he should be killed by society for the crime. I used to believe the lies the media told me, too. However, data does not back up your claim. Over 90% of sex offenders never go on to commit another sex crime. Bing it. Not all of us have Duke LaCrosse player type of money to pay for defense lawyers. It is also estimated that approximately 25% of victims are liars. That’s a huge percentage of innocent people to put under a jail. I found the following article worthy of more of my tears: http://freestudents.blogspot.com/2009/09/there-is-fury-and-and-sadness-inside.html

      I have also learned that DAs are vested only in winning percentages and DOCs are interested in warm bodies to pay for the system. The judge was sort of nice, though, and told my son that he would have a successful life. With laws and the public against him, count me somewhat skeptical.

      High emotions make bad laws. Now I need to go back and commit at least one of the three felonies a day it appears we all do.

  8. It is just that punishment fit the crime. Taking away gun rights fits the crime of gun violence doesn’t it? Plus, the loss of gun rights is *part* of the sentence, a part that doesn’t necessarily expire when the prison part of the sentence expires. I think prison is a very blunt tool of justice, so any way to make punishment fit the crime in a more refined way is an improvement.

  9. To allow felons to possess guns is to trust those who have proven they cannot be safely trusted. There is no education in the second kick of a mule, you either learn from the first kick or you are too dumb to learn anything from the second, third or fourth. We already know that most felons commit future offenses after they are released. Must we let them possess guns to use in their future crimes? To let them have guns is to give them an even better means to intimidate, even murder, those who testified against them. What folly.

    • Jack Olson –

      What are you talking about? A felon is a person who can NEVER SAFELY BE TRUSTED? Where do you get such nonsense? Either a person can safely walk through society and not pose a threat to others or they can’t. If a person cannot be trusted to live among us then they should stay in prison. Is America safer because Martha Stewart now cannot possess a firearm? Think before you write.

  10. @Arbysauce: “It is just that punishment fit the crime. Taking away gun rights fits the crime of gun violence doesn’t it?”

    By that logic(?) the crime for sexual offense should be losing the right/ability to have sex. Not quite the same thing is it?

    What my friend did was stupid beyond belief but:
    1) the “victim” lied about her age and was on an internet chat site with specific age requirements;
    2) the “victim” asked my friend to help her act out some “fantasies”;
    3) the “victim” posted pictures of those “fantasies” on the internet;
    4) he was convicted of sexual offense not for having sex with her, but because he took pictures of her at her request;
    5) have spent the suggested maximum time in prison for his crime he now cannot find a job and is about to lose everything he owns whereupon he will become a burden on the taxpayers of the state.

    And he shouldn’t be able to own a gun why?

  11. The entire problem with this “registry”, and “May Issue” in general, is that the standards are entirely subjective, and largely unpublished, which is anti-thetical to the operation of a Republic based upon the Rule of Law, where all citizens are equal before the Law.
    If the Authorities (and you guys in the blue uniforms with the stars on your collars know who you are) would just do what they’re supposed to, and set down in a codified manner the standards that they wish to operate under, which then can be challenged either legislatively or judicially, we would not have these problems.
    But, as long as you insist on operating with a wink and a nod with your political mentors, you will be challenged in the Courts, and you will lose, and pay the price in public support for the dumb decisions that you have made.

    Oh, and VIOLENT felons should never have their firearms rights restored.
    Do bonding companies issue bonds to convicted embezzlers?
    But, I think it is crazy that that same embezzler should lose his firearms rights; after all, didn’t someone once say that you can steal thousands with a gun, but a really clever person can steal millions with a pen (I suppose it’s billions now with a computer terminal?)?

  12. “and set down in a codified manner the standards that they wish to operate under”

    That unfortunately doesn’t relieve us of living under a system of justice enforced by the bureaucracy rather than the judiciary. Even when the standards are explicit, too many of those standards are just plain daffy. Here in Massachusetts one of the things which will prevent issuance of any firearms license, in perpetuity, is past conviction for “failure to report a hotel or motel fire.” Not quite what the man in the street thinks of when he hears the phrase “violent felons”.

  13. Actually the Founding Fathers were in favor of criminals losing their rights on conviction and saw this as a deterrent to crime. Perhaps they were naïve, but they believed that the possibility of losing those sacred rights would give a person a powerful incentive to live responsibly.

  14. “But once a criminal has served his or her sentence, they should have all their Constitutional rights restored. ”

    You’re confusing incarceration with the sentence.

    In the case of a felony, the sentence may include incarceration, but in various jurisdictions the sentence includes a lifelong prohibition on voting, holding political office, practicing a profession regulated by the state (physician, nurse, CPA, stock broker, professional engineer, teacher, etc.), owning or buying a gun, and so on.

  15. And he shouldn’t be able to own a gun why?”

    Geez.

    Suicide prevention, frankly. If you’re his friend, go take his guns away. Really.

  16. What about someone convicted of a non-violent felony decades ago, who has gone on to live a productive life without so much as a traffic ticket. What is the benefit to public policy that this person not be allowed to defend themselves in their home?

  17. I agree with the author but I also feel for the mother of that young “offender”. And I would like to see real studies on the recidivism rate, not just hear “what everybody knows”.

    RE: sex crimes –
    What qualifies as a “sex offense” needs to be really tightened down, thinned out, and set to a higher standard of proof then “she said so”. I’m not saying it has to become the muslim 4 male witness thing, but it has to be stronger to weed out the liars.

    Appreciatively noticing a coworker more than she wanted to be by you is not sexual harassment and is certainly not a sex crime by any sane definition. “I don’t feel comfortable” is not sexual harassment either, and falls under that “liar” umbrella mentioned by an early commenter. It’s too easy to be used as a weapon in the workplace. Men and women interact. Duh. Trying to legislate that out of existence is foolhardy. Setting office policies that forbid all such behavior with job loss as punishment is taking PC to the insane level. That doesn’t mean all such rules have to go, I’m just saying most need serious libertarian review.

    Two teens going at it because they’re walking hormones should not a sex offense. Horny teenage girls getting it on with college boys because they’re so “mature” and those girls only like “older men” should not be a sex offense. We need to really think about the age of consent in this country, and put away the 1635 Puritan mindset once and for all. Redefine – if not eliminate – Statutory Rape to be any actual sexual penetration with some youth more than 10 years younger than you, or any sexual act with any person under 14. Might have to do that sliding scale thing a the younger end of things, but the truth is that 16 year old girls are after 20 year old guys, and they get what they want. The other truth is that many kids are sexually active these days at 12. And who do you think they’re having sex with? I’m just tossing out some ideas here, to make the point that some laws are just knee-jerk stupid.

    OTOH, with a 10 year gap for statutory, I wouldn’t hire any new primary school teacher who was less than 28, male or female.

    But yes, for the serious real offenders, lock them up and put away the key. Or make it a capital offense, carried out after immediate judicial review. None of this 15 years on Death Row nonsense. But if you let them out after full time served they are the same as everyone else.

    Sex offender registry? No such banana. It is 100% unconstitutional in that it is clearly a cruel and unusual punishment that never ends. It is a form of torture. (but then so is any job application that asks for your criminal record. “Are you currently on parole for a violent felony” should be as much as a job app can ask.) Keep the real sex offenders in jail forever or execute them. Put them back on the street post-parole and they’re the same as anyone else, free to own guns, free to work any job, free to live anywhere.

    RE felons and gun ownership – Do the full time for the crime, and you are once again a member of society, with all rights and privileges. Get out of jail a bit early and you’re on parole, and while you’re on parole you can not own a gun, cast a vote, or test positive for illegal drugs. Do another felony and your punishment will be significantly more, then double that for your 3rd one. But let’s square that away too, and get the BS crimes off the books and those people out of jail. For example: I’m not saying we legalize drugs, but getting caught with … how about a half pound … of weed would be a big fat fine, not mandatory X years in jail. The punishment for all chemical drugs – acid, X, crack, coke – needs to be reviewed. Much of it is insanely severe and got that way from kneejerk politicians “getting tough on crime”.

    So, Mr. Blog Author … how do you feel about the “Lautenberg Amendment” where a citizen loses their 2A rights over a misdemeanor, or even over a restraining order? I’m against that too, and I’m pretty sure statistics show that it is utterly ineffective in protecting the victim from attack.

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