We have no way of knowing for sure, but you have to figure that editors at the New York Times probably make good use of their Outlook reminder function. It just seems they must have set up perpetual reminders at pre-determined intervals to make sure they run stories covering certain societal issues. They just never seem to go very long without running articles on a specific set of topics that are near and dear to the the NYT brass’s bleeding hearts. You know, subjects such as the settled science that is global warming. The manifest effectiveness of government spending in allocating capital and “creating” jobs. The obvious necessity for the nation’s healthcare delivery functions to be guided by the benevolent hands of federal bureaucrats. And then, of course, there’s the growing danger posed by the expansion of gun rights…
The Gray Lady’s most recent efforts yesterday to validate the world view of the majority of its ever-shrinking readership focuses on the ease with which some convicted felons can regain their gun-owning privileges once they’ve paid their debt to society. The Times’ Michael Luo has conducted an “examination” of various states’ laws that were enacted after the 1986 Federal Firearms Owners Protection Act allowed states to control if and how convicted felons can regain their second amendment rights.
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.
Prior to ’86, the feds governed the prohibition of felons regaining gun rights under the Gun Control act of 1968, a knee-jerk legislative reaction to the MLK and RFK assassinations. Which was exactly how the Times and gun control fans liked it. After all, if it’s a law and was signed by LBJ in the ’60s, what’s not to like?
The problem, as the Times sees it, is now that the the collective wisdom of the federal government is no longer in control, the process for rights restoration varies widely from state to state.
Today, in at least 11 states, including Kansas, Ohio, Minnesota and Rhode Island, restoration of firearms rights is automatic, without any review at all, for many nonviolent felons, usually once they finish their sentences, or after a certain amount of time crime-free. Even violent felons may petition to have their firearms rights restored in states like Ohio, Minnesota and Virginia. Some states, including Georgia and Nebraska, award scores of pardons every year that specifically confer gun privileges.
Naturally, to prove just what a travesty allowing individual states to determine who can regain their constitutional rights is, Luo highlights particularly egregious examples of convicted felons who subsequently committed crimes after legally reestablishing their gun rights.
Who’s the real bogeyman in all of this, though? You get three guesses – and if it takes you more than one you might lose your Armed Intelligentsia secret ninja decoder ring. That’s right, the Times blames the NRA. Although the Second Amendment foundation gets an honorable mention, too.
When Senator David F. Durenberger, a Minnesota Republican, realized after the (1986) law passed that thousands of felons, including those convicted of violent crimes, in his state would suddenly be getting their gun rights back, he sought the N.R.A.’s help in rolling back the provision. Doug Kelley, his chief of staff at the time, thought the group would “surely want to close this loophole.”
But the senator, Mr. Kelley recalled, “ran into a stone wall,” as the N.R.A. threatened to pull its support for him if he did not drop the matter, which he eventually did.
“The N.R.A. slammed the door on us,” Mr. Kelley said. “That absolutely baffled me.”
Evidently, making sure Durenberger actually read the laws he voted for wasn’t on Mr. Kelley’s agenda when he was working for the Senator.
To drive his point home, Luo even cites studies by real live academics to make the case that the current state of affairs – even allowing nonviolent felon to regain their guns – is outrageously wrongheaded:
One study, published in the American Journal of Public Health in 1999, found that denying handgun purchases to felons cut their risk of committing new gun or violent crimes by 20 to 30 percent. A year earlier, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that handgun purchasers with at least one prior misdemeanor — not even a felony — were more than seven times as likely as those with no criminal history to be charged with new offenses over a 15-year period.
Criminologists studying recidivism have found that felons usually have to stay out of trouble for about a decade before their risk of committing a crime equals that of people with no records. According to Alfred Blumstein, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, for violent offenders, that period is 11 to 15 years; for drug offenders, 10 to 14 years; and for those who have committed property crimes, 8 to 11 years. An important caveat: Professor Blumstein did not look at what happens when felons are given guns.
The funny thing is, Luo can’t seem to find a single person – no academics, libertarians, wild-eyed gun rights advocates – who’s in favor of the current distribution of responsibilities. At least, he doesn’t quote anyone in the article.
Is the process for felons reacquiring their second amendment rights too lenient in some states? Maybe. But if it is, there’s a simple solution that the the voters in those states can demand: change the laws. If their legislators won’t do that they have the option of electing different representatives who will.
Of course, the processes in place those states may very well reflect exactly what the majority of voters who live there want. It could just be possible that the people in those benighted eleven states believe that, once a criminal has served his sentence and paid his debt to society, he has just as much right to protect himself and his family as anyone else does. But that idea seems to be so drastically counterintuitive to our betters at the Times that we’re not likely to see it represented in an exhaustive “examination” such as this. Or maybe it’s just not fit to print.