NBC-2 News, FL. Asked the question, Should a Convicted Felon Be Allowed to Own Guns?
“There’s a new push in Florida to make it much easier for convicted felons to restore their rights to own a gun.
In Florida, once you’re a felon, you can’t vote, own a gun or run for office.
But according to HB 903, once you’ve served your time, a county judge could determine if you can own a gun again.”
To answer that question, you must first define the term “felon.” Most people would equate that term with rapists, murderers or other violent criminals. However, many felonies are non-violent in nature. A felony is perceived as the most serious of crimes, punishable by death or by more than one year in prison.
The “one year in prison” is key, because the federal definition of “prohibited possessors” uses that phrase as well. It never uses the term felon or felony. So, even non-felony misdemeanors can result in the loss of your right to keep and bear arms. As described by the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution.
According to Meldon Law in Florida: Felonies are divided by several degrees of severity, which stipulate different levels of punishment.
- Capital Felony: death or life imprisonment with no parole
- Life Felony: life imprisonment and a fine not exceeding $15,000
- Felony in the First Degree: up to 30 years in prison and a fine not exceeding $10,000
- Felony in the Second Degree: up to 15 years in prison and a fine not exceeding $10,000
- Felony in the Third Degree: up to 5 years in prison and a fine not exceeding $5,000
- Failure to remit sales tax greater than $300.
- Selling license plates or validation stickers.
- Tampering with an odometer.
- False application for driver’s license or identification card.
- Possession of simulated identification.
- False statement or representation to obtain or increase unemployment compensation benefits.
- Offenses against intellectual property.
- Purchase or Possession (more than 20 grams) of cannabis.
- Stopping payment with intent to defraud $150 or more.
- Passing worthless check $150 or more.
This is just a small sample of a very long list of non-violent Florida felonies. The consequences of a felony conviction in Florida are significant and include:
- Loss of the right to vote, hold office or run for office.
- Disqualified from jury duty for 7 years.
- Loss of the ability to have a firearm.
- Loss of professional licenses.
- Employment restrictions to include
- Inability to serve in the U.S. military.
- Restrictions on family adoptions.
- Eviction by landlord, or from public housing.
- Loss of federal assistance for higher education.
- Loss of state benefits.
- And More…
That is just a sampling of the level of misconception most people have when discussing “felons.” Now that we know a felon is not necessarily a violent threat to society, we can discuss the question more rationally.
It doesn’t take much critical thinking skill to see the reason for criminal recidivism. A relatively minor crime can cost you your housing, employment, education, the right to effective self defense and even your participation in government. You become a literal outcast, a second class citizen with little control of your life or the world around you. How do you reintegrate into a society while being essentially banned from all aspects of that society?
When we ask “Should a felon be allowed to own guns?” Are we asking the right question? Obviously, we don’t WANT violent criminals running around armed, but do such laws actually PREVENT them from getting guns? The answer to that is obviously NO. All such laws can do is allow government to punish someone again and more severely, after the fact.
The real question is, “why do we release continued violent threats back into society?”
Rather than focusing on the gun, perhaps we should be looking at our legal and corrections systems. Rather than making it harder for felons to assimilate back into society, perhaps we should redefine what constitutes a felony. Are bad checks, rolling an odometer back or failing to pay sales tax worthy of losing your rights and ability to function in society?
Can’t our criminal justice system rehabilitate? Can’t we develop some method of threat assessment to determine who is a legitimate threat to society and who isn’t? Those who are not a violent threat should have their rights restored upon release. Shouldn’t they?
A free man or woman, despite past offenses, should have every right and opportunity of any other citizen. Those who are a continued threat should not be set free. Should they? Doesn’t it make more sense for them to remain incarcerated or be otherwise subject to constant adult supervision? At least until they have been rehabilitated or somehow assessed to be no longer a threat to society.
It’s not enough to simply warehouse criminals then release them into society with rules they won’t follow and no hope of integration.
One final thought, who is threatened by a felon having a gun? Everyone? All of society? NO. An armed felon, even a violent continued threat, is only a threat to those who are not willing or able to defend themselves. If we focus on our own personal responsibility, self defense and awareness then we don’t need to deny the rights of others to gain a false sense of security.
Equal protection under the law does not mean setting up a caste system in society. Which is exactly what we have done. We have government elites, lawmakers who pass laws that violate constitutional rights. Then we have “law-abiding” citizens, who could at any moment become criminals simply due to the sheer volume and complexity of those laws. Last, but not least, the felon, those who have been deemed unworthy, served their punishment, yet are still outcasts in society. A life sentence, if you will. Denied rehabilitation, denied rights and denied most of what defines a free citizen. That’s NOT America, or at least it’s not supposed to be.