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.