Reader Roy H. writes:
America may soon make one of its greatest heroes a sitting duck for Al-Qaeda with no way to defend himself. In a terrible twist of the unintended consequences of “reasonable” gun laws, the man who shot and killed Osama Bin Laden in a heroic raid has come forward to reveal himself and subsequently may have broken a law that will prevent him from ever owning a gun again. A Navy spokesman has said that if Rob O’Neill, the alleged hero and shooter, comes forward with information on the raid that he can be charged criminally. Any such charges are likely to be a felony offense that, if convicted of, would bar O’Neill from ever owning a gun again . . .
So here we have a hero who shot Osama bin Laden coming forward, is now most likely Al Qaeda’s most wanted man, and his government is contemplating actions that would make him defenseless for the rest of his life. Great.
Felons were automatically blocked from legally owning firearms when congress passed the Gun Control Act of 1968. It was a bipartisan bill that passed overwhelmingly in both the House and the Senate, getting 71% ‘yea’ votes in each chamber. Oddly enough, many more Democrats voted ‘nay’ than Republicans. Congress’s obvious intent was to craft a law that would keep firearms away from people who were a threat to society and whose actions had proven that there was a heightened chance that these people would use firearms in the commission of violent crimes in the future.
Since the passage of the GCA, possibly millions of good-natured (albeit errant) Americans have needlessly been caught up in this forced disarmament due to an overly broad categorization that doesn’t actually differentiate between someone who is likely to commit violence and somebody who is not. Although the felon label carries a connotation of violence and murderous intent, many felons don’t have a mean bone in their body. The term simply means somebody who committed an offense punishable by 1 year or more in prison. It doesn’t automatically mean they are a heartless class of human beings whose lives no longer deserve to be defended with a firearm.
In the case of most violent crimes, we prescribe long jail sentences in an effort to keep them off the streets so they can’t hurt anyone any more. Hopefully in the years they’re in jail they reform themselves and they come back into society willing to live by the rules and not hurt people anymore.
But in the case of many non-violent crimes, the only reason we lock people up for more than one year is to deter others from committing the same crime. We don’t lock a white collar criminal up for a year or more because they’re likely to hurt or kill somebody. That’s just not the case. I challenge anyone to find a link between tax evasion and the propensity to shoot someone. In Texas, you can be a felon for collecting clams outside of the proper season.
Besides Rob O’Neill, there are other recent and highly notable people who have faced losing their gun rights including Dinesh D’Souza and Rick Perry. D’Souza pled guilty to making $20,000 in political contributions using straw donors. How is public safety enhanced by taking away his gun rights for the rest of his life? Rick Perry was indicted for using his veto power to force the resignation of an official who embarrassed her department with a wild and very public DUI arrest. How is public safety enhanced by taking away his gun rights for the rest of his life?
Surely when Congress passed the GCA of 1968, they didn’t mean to arbitrarily restrict the rights of Americans who weren’t an actual risk to others. Actually, we have proof that it wasn’t the intent. The GCA gave authority to the Attorney General to restore gun rights to people who don’t present a threat to public safety. The Attorney General’s office delegated the responsibility of reviewing applications to restore gun rights to the ATF. In this way, the GCA, as a measure of simplicity, barred felons from owning guns, but allowed for a just process by which the the Rob O’Neills, Dinesh D’Souzas, and Texas clam diggers of the world could get relief and have their firearm rights restored.
The problem is that in early 1992, Congress attached stipulations to the ATF’s funding that disallowed the ATF from spending any money reviewing these requests. This is one of the greatest injustices to gun rights we have in America. Now that pro-gun politicians control both the houses of Congress, we have an obligation as 2nd Ammendment supporters to voice our concerns to Congress to restore the ATF’s funding to review civil rights restoration applications. Please contact your representatives in Congress. As NRA members, please push it and other gun rights organizations pressure Congress to release the stipulations keeping the ATF from reviewing civil rights restoration applications. This great injustice to our gun rights can be reversed the next time congress passes a budget or a continuing resolution for spending.