Friday, September 11, 2009

Convicted Felons With Guns

CBSnews.con reports (scroll down to the bottom of the article) on the decision in North Carolina to restore gun rights to a convicted felon.

Barney Britt is a longtime outdoorsman and hunter who once claimed a trophy for shooting the third largest deer in North Carolina history. Now the resident of the town of Garner, a short drive south of Raleigh, N.C., can claim a different type of trophy: he faced off against the government over gun rights, and he won.

Some background: Britt pleaded guilty to felony possession of methaqualone (aka quaaludes) in 1979, when he was 20 years old. Now he's 49 years old, has no subsequent criminal history, and there's no evidence he's violent or dangerous today. In fact, he peaceably owned firearms from 1987 to 2004.

What exactly was the right that had to be restored? What did he lose by becoming a convicted felon? If he "peaceably owned firearms" after his conviction and became a famous hunter and outdoorsman, what was lacking?

In 2004, the North Carolina General Assembly rewrote the law to deny possession of any firearm to anyone convicted of a felony, even if the guns were kept at their homes or businesses. So Britt filed a lawsuit claiming his rights -- not his Second Amendment rights, but those protected by the state constitution -- were violated by the new law.

Is that to say that prior to 2004 convicted felons in NC were not subject to losing their right to bear arms? Does that mean that during those years all the convicted felons who weren't able to turn their lives around like Mr. Britt were able to own guns? I'll bet that resulted in some repeat offenders, what do you think?

What's your opinion? Is this a good law, that convicted felons should be deprived of their rights? Did the State of North Carolina do good in making an exception in the case of Mr. Britt?

Please leave a comment.


  1. If you can't trust someone enough to own a gun, you can't trust them enough to not be locked up.

    So if he's safe enough to be let out of prison, he should get his rights back. If he's not safe enough to get his rights back, he should stay locked up.

  2. Even if convicted felons (now out of prison) are not allowed by law to own or possess guns, how does that prevent them from getting them?

  3. There are different and sometimes changing standards for "felony" as applied to gun possession. In this case the standards were tightened years after his conviction, making him a prohibited person years later.

    There are several issues here. One of them is the ability to increase the penalties after the fact and after the sentence is complete, not only in cases like this but also in the Lautenberg amendment.

    The other is whether nonviolent felonies should include the permanent removal of unrelated constitutional rights.

    In general terms, I am in favor of laws forbidding violent felons from possessing guns, although I would also want a way to restore rights in a case where someone can show that they have turned their life around. I don't remember if I've mentioned it here, but I have an in law who is a poster child for felon in possession laws. He gets arrested often enough that he would wind up back in jail if he were to regularly carry a gun, or possibly even have one in his house, he would also get into a drunken fight and use the gun, instead of just getting into a fistfight.

    He has not done anything that I consider bad enough for life in prison, and as he gets older, he appears to be improving. It is still best that he remains ineligible to posses firearms.

  4. This is nothing but an enforcement issue. Felons have been barred from possessing guns on the FEDERAL level since 1968.

    This was also when gun shops/pawn shops/ gun makers et al, were required to be federally licensed.

    So a gun shop selling a gun to a felon ANYWHERE in the US of A can loose his license for that.

    Any person selling a gun to a felon ANYWHERE in the US of A can be prosecuted federally for a violation of the law.

    Looks like NC police just refused to enforce the law.

  5. Should a convicted drunk driver who has served his/her sentence be allowed to drive again?

    How about someone convicted of computer fraud? should they be allowed a computer?

    I'm with Aztec Red on this, if a person has served their sentence, have been rehabilitated according to the prison authorities, why shouldn't their rights be restored?

  6. Hey MikeB,

    Should those convicted of spamming or accessory to spamming be allowed email accounts?

  7. Define rehabilitated. You really can't know if someone is rehabilitated until you let them out into society. I do not want the government to routinely imprison people for decades without really good reasons.

    So when sentences are up, we let people out of prison even if it would be dangerous to allow them to have guns (and even if they can get guns anyhow). We restore their rights gradually. If someone can demonstrate that they are really rehabilitated for many years, they should be able to regain their rights.

    Felon in possession laws won't stop repeat armed robberies and such, but they will reduce the harm caused by people like my idiot felon-in-law. His problem is primarily a lack of control when he loses his temper, compounded by drugs and alcohol.

    If I had my way, the original drug charge would not have existed in the first place, so this particular case would be moot.

  8. I'm almost with AztecRed on this. I believe that someone that has served his sentence has paid his debt to society and should have all rights restored. How can anyone expect a criminal to be truly rehabilitated and cease being a criminal if he will always be a 2nd class citizen?

    Where I differ is that due to the catch and release mentalities of some states and municipalities, I believe in only restoring rights to someone that has completed their sentence. Someone that is out on parole or that is under probation to me is still serving their sentence. So while yes, I technically agree that if you can't be trusted you should be locked up, I also realize that is just not going to always happen.

  9. I'm not particularly opposed to ex-convicts or former felons having their rights reinstated any more than I'm opposed to others having guns. But I think there's a big difference between a felony armed robber who does time and a white collar guy or this quaalude guy. There should be some graduating way of determining eligibility.

    I definitely don't think it's as simple as some say, that if they can't be trusted to have guns then they can't be trusted to be out of prison, and the reverse, that if they are ready to be released from jail they should be ready to get their "rights" back.

    I don't understand this thinking that always divides people into clearly defined categories.

  10. MikeB,

    I don't understand this thinking that always divides people into clearly defined categories.

    Do you ever think about what you write? I ask because just a few sentences earlier you divided people into categories.

    But I think there's a big difference between a felony armed robber who does time and a white collar guy or this quaalude guy.

    So, which is it. Should we divide people into categories or not?

    The "armed robbery" guy could have been desperate to feed a drug habit he kicked in jail or the "quaalude" guy could have been using violence and just wasn't caught committing that crime.

    You are showing your bigotry again. It is okay for felons to vote, it is okay for felons to drive --even those drunk drivers, but it isn't okay for them to own a firearm for protection. How does that make any sense unless it is bigotry toward firearms.

    Some felons used knives to commit horrendous acts, yet you say nothing about them being in possession of knives....bigotry

    If you are concerned about felons committing additional crimes, double, triple the penalties. Make it a life time sentence if they commit another violent crime.

  11. As I understand it a convicted criminal can have their rights restored. Most by petitioning the courts. As it pertains to firearms, I believe that one must petition the ATF, in order to have the right to posses firearms.

    That being said, I think it is wrong that if you live with a convicted felony, you as someone who has no record cannot posses a firearm. I also believe that once you have done your time, you should get all of your rights automatically restored. Only in cases that the crime was non violent. If the crime was a violent crime you should still get the majority of your rights restored, excluding the right to own, carry or use a gun.

  12. "I definitely don't think it's as simple as some say, that if they can't be trusted to have guns then they can't be trusted to be out of prison, and the reverse..."

    But it is that simple. If they can't be trusted with a gun, why trust them with automobiles, knives, large quantities of gasoline, or any other deadly weapon that's freely available? It just seems a bit hypocritical to me.

    The solution is very simple to me: If they are a violent felon who can't be trusted to have their gun rights restored, then just keep them locked up. That all but completely guarantees they won't have access to a gun or any deadly weapon. I bet that will put a dent in the number of repeat offenders.

    "I don't understand this thinking that always divides people into clearly defined categories."

    Isn't that exactly what you've been doing with your 10%?

    Maybe this can be a new category for your 10%: People who should have been kept in jail, since they couldn't be trusted with a gun.

    That would probably encompass about 5% by itself. Especially in places like Philadelphia where they have an 80% recidivism rate.

  13. I don't understand the violent crime.

    Aggravated Assaults with weapons are only 26% of the committed crimes, yet we set firearms apart.


    Drunk drivers can drive again.

    Heck, even rapists can have consensual sex.

    A person who used a baseball bat can buy another. Why put firearms in a special class?

    Bigotry and propaganda are the only answers I can think of.

  14. Bob, who accuses others of having trouble with logic, asks, "Why put firearms in a special class?

    Bigotry and propaganda are the only answers I can think of."

    I suppose that would be compared to cars, knives, baseball bats, computers, and probably some other things.

    It's like one of those IQ test questions in which one item of the five does not fit in the group.

    Here's the answer: guns are the most efficient killing "tool?" In fact some argue that killing is their purpose, which puts them in a class of their own indeed. Other things can be used to kill or to commit crimes, but the efficacy of the gun puts it in a class of its own.

    In other words I reject that whole argument which tries to paint the gun as just another tool. Shovels are made to dig, and can also be used to kill. Hammers too, made to drive nails, but can be abused and use to kill. Baseball bats, made to play baseball, cars for transport, etc., etc..

    Only guns do what they're designed to do when they are used to kill.

  15. MikeB,

    Once again, you have no frakkin clue as to what you are talking about.

    Only guns do what they're designed to do when they are used to kill.

    You confuse design and intent.

    A gun is designed to expel a projectile down a barrel and out at high speeds.

    If my intention is to use it for target shooting, then the design may include a longer barrel different grip.

    If my intention is to carry it for protection, then the design may include a short barrel and thin grip.

    But the basic design doesn't change all that much, a bullet down a barrel is how it is designed.

    A gun on a cops belt may be the exact same as one in a criminals belt....does the design matter or the intention of the person carrying it?

  16. It makes no sense for a person to be punished for his/her illegal acts, serve their sanction, and return to society a non-functional citizen.

    You have the right to work and pay taxes, however purchasing a firearm is not an option. A convicted felon should have the rights to bare arms. Not all, but if they have completed all the necessary requirements to be released back into society.

    If not, why does a felon pay taxes & vote? It can't be that they're just good enough to help get you in office and pay taxes. Citizen or not?

  17. I have worn the convicted felon hat for 17 years. Every year it seems tougher for the one time offender to maintain a decent living. Rules, regulations, and laws are created to push us down.

    We need a Political lobby group to protect our rights.

    I made this website to demonstrate what life is like for the one time offender in NC. We are discriminated for life for making a mistake.

    17 years is a long time to be punished. I stole something in college, paid a fine and put on probation. I learned from my lesson. Stop punishing me please.

  18. Anonymous, Thanks for the comment and the personal story. Are you mainly referring to your right to own guns?