The Gun Control Act of 1968, a US Federal statute, prohibits convicted felons from possessing firearms. In the wake of the D.C. v. Heller Supreme Court decision, several lawsuits have been filed by convicted felons, seeking to regain their right to keep and bear arms for self defense and sporting purposes. Most of the people I’ve discussed this with are of the opinion that convicted felons should not be allowed to own guns. I, however, have reached the conclusion that such blanket prohibition on gun ownership by felons is not reasonable. Allow me to explain why:
All felons were not convicted of a violent crime, so a gun ban for all felons prevents many non-violent people from lawfully having a gun for self defense
Tax evasion, bribery, computer-related crimes, smuggling of art, and a great many other non-violent crimes can be felonies. These crimes are certainly serious, but a person who commits tax evasion, be it income taxes or otherwise, generally does not pose a risk insofar as armed violence is concerned. In fact, many of these “white collar” felonies are committed by wealthier people who, statistically speaking, are less likely to commit violent crimes than the average citizen. That means that banning convicted felons from possessing guns will prevent a lot of non-violent people from owning guns for self defense, which is why a great many people want a gun in the first place. Furthermore, those convicted felons who are inclined to commit a crime and want a gun will get one, regardless of the law.
Many violent crimes are not felonies, so a gun ban for all felons does not prevent many violent people from lawfully having a gun.
Simple battery, assault, and a variety of other violent crimes are only misdemeanors. That means that a person can commit a rather violent crime, and often plea bargain it down to a misdemeanor. Such a person is then able to own a gun. Note that I am not arguing in favor of taking guns away from such people. Instead, I am saying that if the supposed goal of the federal law is to keep violent criminals from having guns, then that supposed purpose is not served, since those convicted of violent misdemeanors can still possess guns.
Note: I am in no way condoning the commission of felonies. Instead, I am saying that before a person is stripped of the right to defend themselves with a firearm, there should be a very good reason; and non-violent crimes don’t seem to be a sufficient reason. Remember, the supposed goal of The Gun Control Act of 1968 is to keep those who will commit violent crimes from having a gun, not to re-punish a convicted felon who has already been punished and released from jail. Given that fact, the question becomes whether banning all felons from ever having a gun again is reasonably related to preventing crime – and I’m compelled to answer that question in the negative.
Note 2: A lively discussion has taken place in the comments below this article. As an Attorney, I would like to reiterate that nothing I write on this website constitutes legal advice, no attorney-client relationship is formed between readers of this website and myself, and readers are cautioned not to heed “legal advice” offered online by non-lawyers.
Note 3: An update to this article can be seen here: Gun Rights for Convicted Felons? – Part 2