When people hear that I support allowing felons to keep and bear arms in self defense, people are up in arms. “How can you support violent felons having the right to guns?” Then, when they find out I don’t support background checks either, they label me as an extremist or some other epithet. I am actually a very tough-on-crime guy. So, I hope you’ll hear me out. I think you’ll come to agree with my reasoning – if you believe in liberty.
I decided to write this story after reading a this story on the Blaze. While this story has absolutely nothing to do with guns and is an amusing story, it motivated me to write this post after reading this:
Graham has since been charged by Chicago police with one felony count of criminal trespass to a place of amusement.
If convicted of running across a field in a gorilla suit is a felony, we have problems in this country. Who was harmed? Where is the victim? I’m seriously, “criminal trespass to a place of amusement”?! What statist politician look at a sporting event and thought to himself: let’s make it a felony offense to run across a football field! We MUST do something about this! BUT A FELONY?!?! If convicted, this man would lose his RIGHT to keep and bear arms.
Let’s look a few more felonies that actually exist. Here in Texas, it’s a “crime” to exercise your right to keep and bear arms without a government issued permission slip. However, if you were caught carrying that firearm into a place that sells alcohol – say, WalMart – that class A misdemeanor suddenly and magically becomes a felony even if all you went to buy was the latest X-Men movie.
Writing a hot check is a felony, even if you may have done so accidentally if you have an aggressive prosecutor. Curfew and loitering violations can be considered felonies depending on the situation. Then there are all those insider trading or fraud felonies. In fact, Martha Stewart is a felon and she also isn’t a threat to anyone. As I kept studying I found one of the most absurd felonies of all: possession of a bald Eagle feather. Only certain tribal members can own them and then only with a permit. If you’re found with one, even if you picked up from the ground while hiking in the forrest, you can be charged with a felony.
I’ve had several “felons” contact me asking what they are supposed to do to protect themselves. I know that at least here in Texas, 7 years after your conviction or sentence (whichever is later), felons may have firearms for self defense in the home only. However, some of these “felons” were convicted 20, 30, and in one case 42 years ago when they were stupid teenagers. There was no way that they could have known taking a plea deal would effect them for the rest of their lives. There is no statute of limitations on the law. A felon is a felon whether they were charged as a minor and agreed to a plea deal of community service or probation. Many minorities and those in poverty who are falsely arrested or charged with crimes can’t afford legal representation and they are encouraged to take plea deals to avoid trial and an “inevitable conviction.”
Now, that said, what about “violent felons?” Without background checks, how do we keep guns out of their hands.
Let me first talk about the base reason I oppose BGC is because it gives the government the ability to determine who “qualifies” to exercise a right. While I’m sure politicians had good intentions when they passed this law, they failed to take into account the wide net they just cast. Instead of the law only applies to violent crimes, everyone “convicted” of a felony was affected.
By allowing the government to determine that “felons” have no rights, what’s to stop an out of control government from simply creating more and felonies. They’re already doing it. Some states, like New York, literally now have six degrees of felonies. Some examples of these felonies include promoting a suicide attempt, computer trespass (in essence if you used your spouse’s or anyone’s computer without permission), gambling, consensual prostitution, eavesdropping, failure to pay child support and wearing a bullet-proof vest – ANYWHERE – to name just a few. What’s to stop the government from just making EVERYTHING a felony?
Texas is an excellent example of what happens when you allow government to dictate the terms of one’s rights through criminal prosecution. The moment a Texan is merely arrested and charged with a “crime,” whether justified or not, that person either loses his license or not qualified to obtain one until after trial, a violation of due process. A perfect example of the flaw in this law is the arrest of several gun rights activists at the Texas capitol. They immediately lost their licenses even though charges were eventually dropped…AFTER A YEAR!! These law abiding citizens were stripped of their rights for no reason than abusive cops wanted to assert their power (yes, we are suing them). If “convicted” of a class B misdemeanor or higher, that prohibition extends to five years after the conviction or end of punishment. This includes graffiti, littering, DWI, theft, disorderly conduct (which includes cursing), and driving on a suspended license to name a few. Other than California, Texas is the only state that strips its citizens of the right to keep and bear arms based on nonviolent, non gun-related “crimes.” When we allow states to also dictate who qualifies to exercise their rights, what’s to stop them from making jaywalking, spitting on a sidewalk, walking down the wrong side of the road or other nonsense charge a discriminator? Government should NOT have the ability to decide who can and cannot defend themselves.
So, you may ask, “if you don’t believe in background checks, how in the world do we keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals?” See, I don’t believe the problem is performing background checks. After all, criminals don’t willingly submit to such checks. It’s only an impediment to law abiding citizens and senseless delay. The real problem lies in our penal system. The question people should be asking is, “if these violent individuals are a threat to society, why are allowed in society?” The problem lies with lax sentences or even in plea deals given to violent offenders. A life sentence should be a life sentence: no parole except in extremely rare circumstances (like young offenders). The death penalty, exercised as expeditiously and thoroughly as constitutionally sound, is a great deterrent. I’m not averse to capital murder convicts sentenced to death from being hung in the public square or facing a firing squad. Crimes involving the illicit use of firearms should be no less than a felony, and a stiff one at that. Prison should be for violent offenders and, once there, should be the most demeaning and uncomfortable place imaginable. They should have no access to cable, entertainment of any kind, nice meals, or publicly funded education (if they want to pay for college like the rest of us, I support that). That will deter them. They should be forced into manual labor that benefits society and encompasses the worst jobs for which government employees must attend to: clearing sewage, maintaining shoulders and roadways, cleaning up after states of emergency, etc. Anyone attempting to flee would be shot on sight. After all, these are violent criminals.
Solve the penal system problem and you solve the violent crime problem. Once a prisoner is legitimately deemed safe for society, all rights should be reinstated. One of the problems we have in this country is recidivism. One of the reasons is because these people can’t get real jobs with convictions, even if it was an honest lapse of judgment that taught them a lesson. Once someone has paid to debt to society, as dictated by legally and strictly applied punishment, they should have the ability to reintegrate. If these people can’t get jobs, their only recourse is going back to a life of crime just to be able to meet their needs of survival or they become addicted to drugs to help them cope and become a drain on society.
I’m all for harsh punishment as a trade-off reinstating rights to criminals who have paid their dues and been deemed rehabilitated to return to society. It’s not a “soft on crime” stance by any means. Non-violent “felons” should not lose their rights just because a law was passed making some petty action a criminal offense that some lawmaker decided to make a “felony.” I believe it would legitimately lower crime rates, make people more productive, and reform our criminal justice to what it should be intended for.