Before the NRA annual meeting in St. Louis this year the TTAG crew had a very nice dinner with Dick Heller at Dan’s place. The topic of discussion that night meandered from one thing to another, but the main discussion was on whether felons should have their firearm rights returned to them after serving their time. A couple of the writers were of the opinion that doing your time cleared all debts and your rights should be returned, but I had a slightly different opinion on the matter . . .
I just want to say before I get too far into this that there’s a reason I don’t usually post opinion pieces on this site, and that’s because I’m a card carrying Democrat. Some of my friends have placed me more accurately in the libertarian range of the political spectrum, but either way I tend to be more liberal on most of my views than most of our readers. But on this topic I only see one logical solution for our country to take.
Violent felons should not have their gun rights automatically returned.
I believe that the Bill of Rights guarantees our God given rights on this planet, and we are free to use those rights as we see fit. We were born with a clean slate, free to choose our own path through life using our free will. Most of us use those rights for good, but some people abuse their rights to the detriment of others. It’s at the point where one person’s exercise of their rights begins harming others that I see the need for some of those rights to be curtailed.
In my opinion, someone who willfully abuses their rights in order to injure another human being has proven that they are unable to be trusted with those rights. That’s the reason I don’t oppose the NICS check at gun stores, as it makes sure that those who have proven incapable of handling the responsibility of their rights aren’t allowed to legally purchase firearms.
Some argue that the prison sentence alone is sufficient, and afterwards they’ve “paid their debt” and can have their rights returned. But anyone who has been to an elementary school knows that giving the playground bully a time out doesn’t stop him from terrorizing the other children the next day. That child has proven they are incapable of controlling themselves and needs to have their recess privileges revoked until they have demonstrated that they have themselves under control. Adult offenders see prison sentences the same way, as a time out before they can get back out and continue their life of crime.
Dick Heller has worked in corrections for ages, and he sees criminals coming in and out of prisons on a regular basis. He’s seen more repeat offenders than people who quietly do their time and become a contributing member of society once more. Because of that observation he’s of the same mind, that felons shouldn’t get their gun rights automatically restored. I take that as evidence (however anecdotal) that my theory is right, and once someone has abused their rights there’s no logical way to assume they won’t do it again.
Naturally there are exceptions to this assumption, as not every felon goes out and commits another crime. There are some people who truly have reformed their lives and deserve to have their rights restored. But it should be an active process that the felon has to go through to have their rights restored, not an automatic restoration. They should need to prove that they have been rehabilitated.
That’s my take: You should be able to exercise all of your rights to the fullest extent until you have proven that you are incapable of handling that responsibility.
FOR CLARIFICATION: I’m talking about VIOLENT felons having their 2A right revoked until they’ve proven their rehabilitation.