ATF: Gun Ownership is a Privilege, Not a Right


The ATF’s website has an FAQ section. First up: “I want information on relief of federal firearm disability? (I am a felon but want to own a firearm, how do I get my privilege restored?)” According to, a “privilege” is “a right, immunity or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most: the privileges of the very rich.” It behooves the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to remember that all Americans have the RIGHT to bear arms. And once again, I state my firmly held conviction that ANY American who has paid his or her debt to society should have their gun rights restored. Automatically. Especially in light of the fact that . . .

Hundreds of thousands of Americans [have been] charged and convicted in recent decades under federal criminal laws—as opposed to state or local laws—as the federal justice system has dramatically expanded its authority and reach.

As federal criminal statutes have ballooned, it has become increasingly easy for Americans to end up on the wrong side of the law. Many of the new federal laws also set a lower bar for conviction than in the past: Prosecutors don’t necessarily need to show that the defendant had criminal intent.

The above’s an extract from an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. The story revealed that there are now so many federal criminal statutes that . . .

Counting them is impossible. The Justice Department spent two years trying in the 1980s, but produced only an estimate: 3,000 federal criminal offenses.

The American Bar Association tried in the late 1990s, but concluded only that the number was likely much higher than 3,000. The ABA’s report said “the amount of individual citizen behavior now potentially subject to federal criminal control has increased in astonishing proportions in the last few decades.”

A Justice spokeswoman said there was no quantifiable number. Criminal statutes are sprinkled throughout some 27,000 pages of the federal code.

I’m not trying to weasel here. For sure there are hundreds of non-violent federal crimes for which any sensible person would not deprive a felon of his or her gun rights. I am equally adamant that we, as a society, should err on the side of caution and restore the gun rights of anyone who has done their time.

If we believe an individual is not safe enough to exercise their right to keep and bear arms, we should not release them back into society. If we release them, they should have their Constitutional rights restored. Would we permanently deprive a felon of their right to free speech?