“Felons with guns” is almost universally recognized as a bad idea, but WHY?
To understand that, first we must define what is a “felon” versus the public’s common misconception. Simply stated, a “felon” is someone who has been convicted of a crime designated as a “felony”. Pretty basic stuff, right? Serious crimes are deemed by society and the legal system as felonies and those who commit them are “felons”. Not much to argue about there. Now the question is, what is the public perception of a “felon”? Most people would say murderers, rapists, kidnappers, bank robbers or some other sort of violent bad person. With that perception it would seem pretty obvious that they shouldn’t have guns, right?
Now, let’s dig a little deeper. A “felon” is actually someone who is IN PRISON for committing a felony. Once they are released, they become an EX-felon OR just another member of society, a free citizen just like anyone else? So, the question then is, if they are a free citizen then why shouldn’t they have ALL of their rights, including their right to bear arms? They do have the same right to self-preservation and self-defense as anyone else, right? They get their other rights back, like voting, they have free speech, freedom of religion, equal protection under the law and all their other rights, right?
What’s that? ‘But, they’re violent felons, or ex-felons’, you say? Are They? Really?
Here’s where it gets interesting:
A: Not all felonies are violent or involve the use of a weapon or cause any physical harm. There are many “white-collar” felonies like embezzlement, fraud, tax evasion, forgery, etc.
B: The law (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)) does not even designate felonies, per se, as criteria to become a “prohibited possessor” of a firearm. It is actually ANY crime that carries a sentence of over ONE year in prison. Yes, many of those are actually felonies, but not all.
C: Here’s the kicker… If someone in prison IS a violent felon, unrepentant and un-rehabilitated, our current criminal justice system still releases them back into society anyway? By what logic would you knowingly release someone back into society that is an un-rehabilitated continued threat with a history of not following the law and expect them to follow gun laws or any laws for that matter? The system didn’t rehabilitate them or assess their potential threat to society. It’s just, times up and you’re free to go. Kinda scary, huh?
This is the smoke and mirrors, false sense of security that so many Americans have bought into. There is this public perception that felons, or ex-felons, are violent and dangerous individuals, which many might well be. Yet, our criminal justice system releases them back into society without any rehabilitation or even adult supervision. The government just passes laws to restrict access to guns for people that we perceive to be violent criminals while knowing that criminals, by definition, do not obey laws. Especially not gun laws. Granted, part of the reason society has this perception, that violent felons will probably be violent EX-felons as well, is because we know our criminal justice system isn’t rehabilitating people.
Sounds crazy, right? Well… IT IS!!! Rather than focus on fixing our criminal justice system and rehabilitating criminals, we pass laws that we know the people they are aimed at won’t obey. Surprise, Surprise! They don’t. So, why do we persist in this fantasy of denial and illusion? Because it feels good and it’s easy. Politicians just pass a law, so they look like they’re “doing something” and it makes the public “feel” safer, while actually making people less safe.
Less Safe? Really?
Laws that are supposed to “keep guns out of the hands of criminals” actually just add an extra layer of bureaucracy and expense to everyone’s ability to exercise their right to keep and bear arms. It also IGNORES the real issue at hand, which is un-rehabilitated criminals being released back into society. Gun regulation proponents say that these laws do make it more difficult for them to get a gun, which is an exaggeration at best and an outright fantasy at worst. Even if true, they still have unrestricted access to knives, bats, cars, sticks, rocks and a whole host of other items that they can use to harm others, wreak havoc and continue their criminal careers.
Under our current model, ALL felons are demonized as violent and dangerous, whether they are or not. This generalization of “felons” bars gun ownership to a lot of people who get lumped into this category, but aren’t felons, or ex-felons at all. Our criminal justice system does not rehabilitate, it simply releases dangerous people back into society and in many cases turns once petty criminals into more dangerous hardened criminals. We expect these un-rehabilitated criminals to somehow, magically, decide to follow the guns laws, despite the fact that they deprive them of a basic right of effective self-defense. Laws which actually make us less safe and in many cases (gun free zones) make it easier for violent people to strike with very little chance of resistance. It’s a self-sustaining cycle that gives people a boogeyman to fear and allows government to exert more control while solving NOTHING.
What SHOULD we be doing?
A: Reform our criminal justice system. Institute rehabilitation and a method of evaluation to assess an individual’s continued risk to society if released. That’s some heavy lifting right there folks. Heavy lifting that politicians DO NOT want to do. They’d rather pass a law and run a little PR propaganda campaign, so it’s up to US to demand it.
B: Repeal all gun laws. Any law that denies or inhibits a citizen’s right or ability to keep and bear arms. That includes ex-felons who have “paid their debt to society” and have been released back into society, many of whom become victims simply because they are trying to obey the law, but are made defenseless by the law. Fewer victims, less crime.
C: Educate! Rather than spend billions of dollars on enforcement of gun laws that are an abject failure and make us less safe, invest in firearms education. Reintroduce firearm education in public schools, subsidize other firearm continuous education programs, increase access and affordability of training.
Actually rehabilitate criminals, even the violent ones if possible, keep those who are violent, unrepentant and a continued threat incarcerated or otherwise under constant adult supervision. Arm, educate and train our population as a whole.
Everyone is safer. Rehabilitated ex-felons will re-assimilate into society much easier and have a reduced risk of recidivism. The public perception of ex-felons will improve, because we actually keep those who are really a threat contained. Every free citizen will enjoy the same right to keep and bear arms, self-defense and self-preservation. Then you can choose whether or not to exercise it. No more bureaucrats making that decision for us based on scare tactics and boogeymen to increase their government control. A sane approach to the actual issues would be a welcomed breath of fresh air.
Speaking of sanity. You could make this same exact argument for the other gun control boogeyman, the mentally ill. Just replace “felon” or “criminal” with “Mentally ill” and you kill two anti-gun talking points with one stone.