Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

February 27, 2014

Do felons deserve guns?

(Continued)

The Supreme Court has granted states substantial leeway to restrict both voting and gun rights based on criminal behavior. The key question is: What purpose is served by doing so?

Disenfranchising felons doesn’t serve as a deterrent to would-be criminals. It’s hard to picture a group of bank robbers worrying about whether they’ll be able to vote in the next congressional election before donning ski masks. Nor does it aid in their rehabilitation; if anything, it further ostracizes them from society.

It does, however, allow society to prevent citizens who have broken laws from participating in decisions about what those laws should be. And that, the argument goes, protects society. But what risk does society actually run by allowing ex- cons to vote? Based on the experience of states that have done so, none.

Now turn that same question to gun rights: What risk does society run by allowing ex-cons to possess guns? Based on the evidence, a substantial risk. Felons re-offend at a high rate. Allowing them to do so with a gun in their hands puts society in grave danger. And there are many instances — some documented in a 2011 New York Times expose — of felons who committed violent crimes after having their gun rights restored.

A blanket restoration of felons’ gun rights would pose a real danger to society. Not so with voting rights. Nevertheless, any blanket ban on the exercise of rights is bound to create injustices, and just as some states have made it too easy for violent felons to recover their gun rights, some states have made it too hard for non-violent offenders to recover theirs. A strong case can be made that those who pose the least risk to society — perhaps non-violent first offenders with no drug convictions — should have their gun rights restored after they have served their time and completed their probation or a minimum waiting period with no re-arrests.

Congress could ensure that states are not unduly depriving people of their gun rights by requiring them to restore rights in certain narrow categories of cases. And maybe — just maybe — that idea could create an opening for new bipartisan legislation that would, while restoring gun rights to a significant number of people, close loopholes in the background- check system that would keep guns out of the hands of the truly dangerous.

Text Only
Opinion
  • Questions for Obamacare after the ruling Tuesday, I outlined what we knew about Halbig v. Burwell, the case in which a federal appellate court ruled that subsidies for purchasing insurance under Obamacare can only be made available on marketplaces established by states. Now I propose to out

    July 24, 2014

  • Pensions not the problem I see in last night’s Register-News paper that James Rippy has attempted to enlighten us on pensions in Illinois. I also notice he has written so often he no longer has the title “guest columnist.” It is obvious he has the time and energy to work on

    July 24, 2014

  • Impasse threatens border solution After more than a year of contentious debate, could Congress be any more divided over the issue of immigration? The answer is yes.In the House, positions are hardening over what to do about the tens of thousands of families and unaccompanied young im

    July 24, 2014

  • Take a lesson from Texas I like to eat at blue-collar diners and cafes, particularly when I’m on vacation.It’s a chance to step beyond the homogenized national chains and experience a bit of local flavor.And being a reporter, I like to chat up local folks to find out a bit a

    July 23, 2014

  • The future reality of terrorist drones A very small airplane rose over the Gaza Strip last week. It entered Israeli airspace and sped toward the coastal city of Ashdod. Then a Patriot missile blew it up.The plane, a rudimentary drone launched by the terrorist group Hamas, posed little thr

    July 23, 2014

  • We are headed to a jobless future In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers revived a debate I’d had with futurist Ray Kurzweil in 2012 about the jobless future.He echoed the words of Peter Diamandis, who says that we are moving from a history

    July 23, 2014

  • Pensions need to be addressed I will have to admit that I am slightly overwhelmed today with the receipt of articles and suggestions for a column. One of my Fitness Mafia colleagues constantly tells me the columns are too long and trying to address different subjects just dilutes

    July 22, 2014

  • VA still failing our vets Jymm’s preferred attire is a skin-tight Minnie Mouse T-shirt with bright pink windbreaker pants. Even when not sporting his choice outfit, he dons short shorts and shirts with holes in them, because that’s what he finds most comfortable. His Santa Mo

    July 22, 2014

  • Feed your home piggy bank with a 15-year mortgage This summer, we finally decided to take the plunge we’d been contemplating for a while: converting our 30-year mortgage to one with a 15-year payoff. It’s a big step. Our payments will go up somewhat (the PITI — principal, interest, tax, and insuranc

    July 19, 2014

  • Under the dumb There is a TV series about an entire town trapped under a giant, mysterious crystal-clear dome that appears out of the blue one day. The dome is impenetrable; no one can get in, no one can get out. Who made the dome? Aliens? God? A super-secret branc

    July 19, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks