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Our lawyer pal over at (LAG) blogged a Florida’s DA’s decision to drop charges against Lamar Coaston. “Coaston, who was attacked by the burglar, grabbed his girlfriend’s gun and fired in self defense, striking the intruder and saving himself, according to reports. Unfortunately for Coaston, he is a convicted felon, and was alleged to have violated the Florida law that bans convicted felons from possessing firearms. Luckily for Coaston, the State’s Attorney’s office decided not to purse charges, after concluding that ‘even convicted felons have the right to use deadly force in their home when confronted with a threat to their lives.'” The fact that the burglary may have had something to do with a drug deal gone bad isn’t relevant, I suppose. LAG identifies a wider issue raised by the case . . .

As I’ve previously stated, I don’t think that an absolute ban on gun possession by convicted felons is reasonable.  I reach this conclusion for a variety of reasons:

Firstly, there are many felonies that don’t seem, in any way, to suggest that the person is more likely to be violent or misuse a gun.  For example, passing a stopped school bus is a felony in some states, as is online gambling.  I can’t say I have any objection to a law that bans murderers from owning guns; however, banning everyone who is ever convicted of a felony from owning guns is simply overly broad and unreasonable..

Secondly, along the same lines as my first point, there are simply more felonies today than ever before.  At common law, there were relatively few felonies – murder, rape, arson, burglary, kidnapping, theft, etc.  With the rise of the modern criminal codes, the number of felony offenses has expanded exponentially, as politicians get “tough on crime.”

Hats off to LAG for having the cojones to raise the question of whether The Mother of All Reasonable Restrictions—no guns for felons—is unreasonable. This is not a crusade that’s bound to win friends of influence people on either side of the gun control debate.

And yet, LAG’s is absolutely right.

If a felon can recover his or her right to vote, why not the right to bear arms? Not all felons are the same. If a criminal has paid his or her dues to society and keeps his or her nose clean, why should they presumed to be guilty (a.k.a. a danger to society) forever after?

Don’t they have the right to protect themselves and their posse with a firearm until and unless they commit another felony? Or are the recidivism rates too daunting to even consider such a thing?

As LAG points out not all felonies are not created equal. Some involve violence, some don’t.

Thirdly, blanket bans on gun ownership by convicted felons result in grave injustice.  This case is just one example of the countless cases where a person is made to decide whether they will use a gun in self defense and risk jail, or forgo the gun and risk losing their life.  That is simply unjust.

Fourthly, the ban on gun ownership by convicted felons appears to be quite ineffective at preventing felons from committing crimes.  Examples from this website, as well as the examples that appear in the news each day, make clear the fact that felons who want a gun are not deterred by a law that tells them to remain unarmed.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since a person who is willing to risk being sent to prison for murder/rape/robbery won’t fear a gun possession charge.

So no proscriptive gun purchase regs or ownership restrictions because criminals don’t respect them? Rad, but righteous. And about as politically correct as using the N-word on MLK day.

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  1. My favorite felonies are possession of prescription medication in a non-prescription container (so if you’re on a half-dozen drugs like me, and put them in a Sunday to Saturday pill holder, you’re a felon) and The Lacey Act which provides “that it is unlawful for any person to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase any fish or wildlife or plant taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law, treaty, or regulation of the United States or in violation of any Indian tribal law whether in interstate or foreign commerce. …” Felony feather possession anyone?

  2. RE: Bruce Krafft above:

    Thanks. You reminded me – there's a book on my 2-read list called "Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent" by Harvey A. Silverglate.

    The GOP could do a lot to soften its image by pointing out the numerous retarded laws that criminalize the mundane. Also, there's something to be said for restoring firearms and voting rights to ex-felons after a dozen or so trouble free years after the end of their last sentence.

    Admittedly, the second item could be tough to communicate and would be subject to misinformation from the left. The NY Times editorial page (and the felons' wing of the Democratic Party in general), would love to see all felons voting immediately upon release.

  3. Add also into the mix that some states have a mechanism for restoration of rights, and some do not. Here in TN a felon can go before the judge and have all of his rights restored, so long as the offense was non-violent and non-drug related. In other states, you're just F'd.


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