Lifetime Gun Prohibition for Non-Violent Offender Shows Need for Restoration Reform

Chuck Schumer seen enjoying time shooting a Tech 9 Assault Pistol with a high cap magazine.
Schumer is interested in infringing on the right to keep and bear arms, not restoring it.

USA – -( “When I was 18, I was arrested and charged with felony retail theft for theft of $479 worth of clothing at a Chicago mall,” a young man whose name  I’m withholding told me in a recent email. “State law of Illinois says any value of retail goods above $300 is a felony.

That was a bad decision, no way around it. He regrets the hell out of it, and has since striven to learn from his poor choice and to lead a productive and law-abiding life. But now he’s a “prohibited person,” forbidden by law to touch a gun. And unless he can figure out a legal way around that, it’s a life sentence.

The young man’s attorney tells him he’d spend thousands of dollars and reminds him how being only a few years removed from his sentencing makes any attempt to restore rights unlikely to succeed. State attorneys would object and the chance of a pardon under Gov. Bruce Rauner “is near 0%.”

Still, there might be another way.

“Ken Buck of Colorado, a congressman, currently has an amendment to a House Bill that appears to allow non-violent felons the ability if said law were to pass to apply for lawful right to bear arms,” my correspondent claimed. “I am curious if you have heard of this bill and what you know about it and if it would pertain to my situation given that his bill is for federal relief and my felony is state-issued.”

Buck has introduced such an amendment before. It sought to overturn “an appropriations rider by then-Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), which cuts off all funds for the implementation of BATFE's system to restore Second Amendment rights.”

What Schumer has been doing is blocking funding for a provision in the 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act. Per Gun Owners of America in an alert last May, that provision “would allow persons subject to a gun ban to regain their constitutional rights.

“Make no mistake about it: The procedure is no ‘piece of cake,’” GOA admitted. “A person has to convince the ATF that they don’t represent a danger, or, failing that, they have to convince a federal court.”

So now that Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House, why hasn’t the Schumer obstruction been overturned?

Does anybody see any recent movement by any of the major gun groups to lead the charge on this? Has anyone reading this written to those groups or to your representatives about this?

That’s why.

It’s easy to dismiss this young man’s concerns since his troubles aren’t ours, and since they were ultimately brought about by his actions. But just think of all the ways gun-grabbers are trying to expand the list of those with imposed firearms disabilities, and imagine it happening to you. As we’ve seen, a lifetime prohibition can be imposed for something as simple as throwing keys, or tearing a pocket. Or for refusing to comply with citizen disarmament edicts.

“For roughly 25 years, the ‘Schumer amendment’ to the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Bill has prohibited any federal funds from being used to restore anyone’s constitutional rights,” GOA explained. “So for much of this time, if a person were a veteran with PTSD, they’re out of luck. If they had a conviction for a federal regulatory offense — fifty years ago — they’re out of luck. They will NEVER get their guns back, thanks to Democrat Chuck Schumer.”

There’s no good reason why Schumer’s lifetime disarmament demand should be what prevails. But odds are it will.

About David Codrea:David Codrea

David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating / defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament.

In addition to being a field editor/columnist at GUNS Magazine and associate editor for Oath Keepers, he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.

  • 28 thoughts on “Lifetime Gun Prohibition for Non-Violent Offender Shows Need for Restoration Reform

    1. I believe all felons should get all their rights restored after completing their sentence with the exception of one particular type of felon. That being a person who commits a violent offense with a firearm. This felon is the most dangerous to society in terms of physical harm and very likely to repeat the offense. To me if your going to ban someone from owning a firearm, that person should be banned from ownership based on his past misuse of that firearm, not based on his past misconduct in any other regard.

    2. back in the old days once a prisoner paid his debt he was let out of prison and given his gun back.
      all those so called FELONIES THAT ARE FEDERAL, IS BS it’s all about making people FOREVER RESTRICTED PEOPLE.
      and there is NOTHING in the Constitution that even says one is FOREVER SENTENCED FOR LIFE FOR A CRIME.

      1. The question you allude to is whether the founding generation (who ratified the 2A) considered it an “infringement” to deprive a convicted felon (after serving his sentence) of his natural right of self-defense; and, the right to arms as a means to that end. I think that this is – fundamentally – the Constitutional question.

        I haven’t seen any quotations of contemporaneous (late 18’th Century) writings that spoke to this issue. Perhaps they exist, but my readings are too limited to have encountered them. Just as likely, the conventional wisdom of jurists on this point is substantially without foundation; e.g., that there were too few cases where a convicted felon was prosecuted for felon-in-possession in the late 18’th Century for any opinion to have formed among the People of the ratifying generation. Bear in mind that there were only a very few Common Law felonies at that time and, of these, the ultimate penalty was death, which was often imposed. IF (a big IF) I’m correct on this point, the relevant Constitutional question is mute and could never be answered with any degree of satisfaction.

        When you refer to “the old days” you may have in mind some other era; e.g., just before or just after the Civil War. By such a time, the founding generation was long dead and it would be hard to say whether the opinions of the People in such an era could be said to illuminate the relevant question.

        Another way of getting at the question might be to analogize about deprivation of some other right – such as voting – as understood by the ratifying generation. Unfortunately, no such analogy is apt to be very satisfactory.

        I whole-heartedly agree with you that Congress and State legislatures have created far too many novel felonies; and so, any notion of deprivation of rights has been badly distorted as a consequence. Unfortunately, we the People of the Gun are not going to resolve the issue by Constitutional arguments; that’s simply not within the scope of our influence. Our energies ought, I think, to be invested in a strategic approach that we might be able to influence.

        Instead of pleading the principled case of a freed felon we ought to think about defending the broad “right” of “the People”. Look at each of the several criteria for making a Prohibited-Person. Is the ex-patriot criterion un-Constitutional? (Clearly, it IS Constitutional notwithstanding that it is silly and in defiance of our Creator’s endowment.) Is the felon criterion un-Constitutional as respects violent felons? Non-violent felons? And, now, why is it that non-violent felons convicted of certain financial crimes (e.g., price fixing) excluded? (Here is where we can make a principled argument stick!) What about the very vague and all-encompassing mental-illness criterion?

        A powerful argument to be made here is “disparate impact”. It is said that the high rate of incarceration of young Black males is the “new Jim Crow”. If this is so, then is the Prohibited-Person law operating to re-impose the racial policy of “No Guns for Negros”? If such were so, then – arguably – we have a serious question of whether felon-in-possession is operating as a racially-based “infringement”.

        Could we say that our electoral process would be undermined if too many Black males lost their voting rights? Could we say that the effectiveness of our militia would be undermined if too many Black males lost their arms rights? These are two serious Constitutional questions; and, they are serious! Recall the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. Were elections in the Deep South undermined by impediments to registering to vote? Would the Civil Rights marchers as likely to have succeeded without the (mostly implicit) defense-of-others by such as the Deacons for Defense and Justice? We must not think of just national elections (e.g., for President) or Congress’s need to muster the militia into Federal service. We must think – equally thoroughly – about local elections for town councilmen and local defense of self-and-others against tyranny under color-of-law or by private criminals.

        As a thought experiment, imagine a regime that declared everyone a “Prohibited-Person” whom a mental-health professional declared mentally-ill. Now, let’s suppose that most members of the Republican (Libertarian, . . . ) Party were so declared; constituting 1/4 or 1/3 or 1/2 of the voters. Would that constitute an “infringement”. As a nation, could we tolerate such a hypothetical outcome; one not so far-fetched given the precedent of Stalin. If we can’t risk this possibility then the time to interrupt it is today, when we can begin to see that an important minority (Black males) are threatened with widespread and perpetual deprivation of Constitutional rights.

        Would Blacks (or Native Americans, Muslims, Roman Catholics, Irishmen, Korean shopkeepers, . . . ) be able to muster an effective militia response to public tyranny or private violence if – systematically – too many of their military-aged men were Prohibited-Persons?

    3. I know of a gentlemen this was sent to prison for being a conscientious objector (the most non violent of all offences) during the Vietnam era. Hence having the term felon attached to his name forever. Has always been a 2A supporter. Has always had firearms, and always will. Luckly living in rural Northern California he has flown under the radar for many years.

      1. What most people don’t know is that you can file as a CO with the selective service and either serve in a non-weapons carrying capacity in the armed forces, or you can do alternative service, which is doing something not in the military.

        The people who run afoul of the law are usually not Quakers or Mennonites who file with selective service as CO’s, but Jehova’s Witnesses which enjoy the protections and lifestyles of this country but refuse to acknowledge any government and will not register.

        I too know a guy who was a convicted felon as a CO…he refused to register with the draft board and was a die hard Jehovah’s Witness. He had an older brother who served in WWII and was killed. To the day he died, the felon said “My brother got what he deserved.” To me, that is totally messed up.

        OBTW, my family came to the country as English Quakers. Most of them in my direct line were kicked out of the Quakers because they served in the Army during the Revolutionary War.

        If your friend tried to register and was rejected by the draft board, I think he should be pardoned. If he refused to register at all, I don’t have a lot of sympathy, regardless of how nice a guy he is.

    4. So I suppose one valid interpretation of Illinois laws might be this:

      If yer gonna be a dirtbag and play lightfingers with retail merchandise, and “need” more than $300 worth, make two trips, either on two separate days or to two different establishments, and in each “action” lift no more than $299 in sticker price, perhaps including sales tax.
      This is a stupidlaw, obviously the result of retail merchants as a special interest class lobbying their Bought Boys in the Marble Zoo to pass this law favourable to them.

      Do I advocate theft from merchants? Of COURSE not. I am one, as well Better to have enacted a law mandating restoration as part of sentencing, the thief to repay FOUR TIMES the amount stolen. That is the biblical punishment for theft. Now, Johnny Lightfingers is not off the hook until he repays the merchant out of his own pocket four times what he lifted, in addition to his jail time, court costs, etc. Don’t middle it through the courts. Require a signed notarised statement from the victim declaring that Johnny has repaid the specified amount, with interest from the date the merchandise walked out of the store. I doubt too mamy Johnnies would steal a second time……

    5. there are far too many deeds listed as “felony” in federal and state law. One egregious example is the class of “enhancement” charges mounting to felonies when one is in simple possession of a “prohibited substance” and also happens to be otherwise lawfuly armed. The Feds pile on a felony possession of gun whilst committing another offense, many of whichshould not be an offense in the first place. These are “technical” felonies and should get labelled a sifferent class. In my county, rather rural in a big part of it, I understand it is a felony to shoot a cat….. even a feral nuisance cat terrorising a neighbourhood. Riiculous? Yup. So we have adopted the Four S policy. Gunfire is not that uncommon, and hardly anyone pays attention to a few random rounds. Whether a feline happened to be in the crosshairs is irrelevant.

    6. Even possession of small amounts of drugs in Massachusetts is a lifetime ban from ever getting a license to carry. I know someone who was turned down because of a marijuana conviction in 1971 (2 joints). He would be able to get it now that pot has been decriminalized here, but he died of old age before that could happen. It doesn’t matter how many years you go without incident. The jerk who almost killed me in a road rage incident (I was a passenger in a car that had nothing to do with it) however, now has his drivers license back even though he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon.

    7. We are, as usual, our own worst enemies in the matter of restoring 2A rights.

      The Absolutists among us insist that no one – under any circumstances – may be legitimately bared from the use of arms. For the sake of argument, let’s suppose they are right; they have checked their position with God and She has told them so. Now, then, how do we imagine that we will persuade voters to urge their Senators and Representatives in Congress to go along with this position?

      We would do a far greater service to sympathetic cases, such as the one cited here, by advocating a campaign of careful and gradual “reform”.

      Our REAL problem is the text and implementation of the Prohibited-Person law(s). The Federal P-P law includes one criterion that is indisputably Constitutional; and it’s the one which is obviously silly. Citizens who have renounced their citizenship are bared; but, of course, they are indisputably outside the class of “the People” protected by the 2A. Does this criterion deserve consideration for reform on the grounds of silly-ness?

      At this juncture in the argument we People of the Gun must admit that the P-P law has at least one Constitutional provision; albeit a silly one. All the others are subject to debate on grounds of Constitutionality, silly-ness, or both. So, let’s get started on a reform campaign. Non-violent felons and misdemeanants. Mental-health criteria, and so forth.

      What we lack is a good choice of “poster-child” on which to focus. Felons – even the non-violent – are a poor choice. Instead, we ought to focus on the issue of “disparate impact” on classes of citizens who are protected minorities by race or mental-disability. The history of the Civil Rights arguments puts heavy emphasis on disparate impact. We ought to be – at the very least – suspicious whenever “fundamental” rights are withheld disproportionately from protected classes of citizens.

      It’s all very well to dis-able someone of his/her rights who has been convicted of a henious crime or been adjudicated as insane. But to do so for felony-shoplifting or a diagnosis of post-partum depression? Are such laws truly in accord with our Constitution?

      By focusing on such sympathetic classes we are apt to be able to recruit advocates for racial minorities or mental-illness sufferers. Collectively, we may be able to get traction in Congress to reform the P-P law.

    8. Obviously Chucky is not going to budge, but I think it can be done if you lobby his puppet masters. Goldman Sachs have given him over $500K, Citi Group over 500K, Paul Weiss Et Al over 400K, and J.P. Morgan over 330K. Start writing the CEOs of his corporate owners and maybe you’ll find one or two sympathetic.

    9. This is a tough subject, as most drug dealers are also classed as “non-violent offenders” even if they are gang members. Usually they get caught after a long history of crimes against society. If they are felons, chances are that the cops have had run ins with them in the past. Also, in most states, felons lose their right to vote. I’m sure someone will argue that if you restore gun rights, you have to restore voting rights.

      Guess what I’m saying is that while I was growing up “convicted felon” meant you had stepped so far out of societal norms that you lost certain privileges and Constitutional rights for life. Now we seem to have these “yeah-but” discussions on every single case out there…”yeah, but I only sold xxxx pounds of drugs”, “yeah, but I’ve grown up now”, “yeah, but I never killed anybody….” until they did.

      I feel badly that this gent is classed as a felon in his home state. However, I can’t see changing the law based on this one specific instance.

      1. I agree with the comment by Missouri Born. Where is all that compassion that the Liberals love to talk about? If we follow their logic we might harken back to the scarlet A days. Why not bring back debtors prison while we’re at it? If you’re intent on denying one Right why not others? No free speech for convicted felons, no driver’s licenses either. You’ll pay for your crime forever! Ridiculous? Yes it is. Just as ridiculous as denying someone the Right to defend themselves AFTER they’ve been punished for their crime. If society considers them so dangerous that they can’t be armed then, damnit, keep them in jail.

        1. Vanns and Missouri Born (as am I) I appreciate your thoughts. Great to see the folks here keep the discussion civil, for sure.

          I don’t think of this as in black or white terms (and not referring to skin color here). If you indeed believe that a felon has paid his/her debt to society, then are you also against sex offender registries, three strike laws, loss of voting privileges and federal employment and such?

          If you believe as Montie does that any non-violent crime can’t be a felony, then there is no felony DUI, or drug possession or felony theft for any amount. So, rob a bank, steal a million, not a felony as long as you weren’t violent?

          So what we’ve got here is a complex issues, as we’re conflating both federal felonies and state felonies. I happen to believe that if states are the laboratories of Democracy, then some states will make bad decisions. (Personally, I think living in IL is a bad decision if you like guns, but there are a lot of great people who live in the land of Lincoln, and can’t move).

          That was my original point, that this is more than just an issue about one guy who stole clothes worth less than $500.

          Ultimately all arguments aside, in this case, if the circumstances are exactly as portrayed, I’d say yeah, he should get his full Constitutional rights back.

    10. What happened to the old saying serving your sentence is paying your debt to society?
      Non violent offenders should have their rights restored one time and one time only, if they learned their lesson we will never hear of problems from them again.

      1. It has been my experience that most people with felony convictions have committed violence either during that crime or in their past. Unless each case were to be examined individually, which would cost a lot of time and money, there is no way to accomplish the goal. Now maybe if the person requesting the restoration were to pay 100% of the cost it might be worth doing; but, that is the only way I would consider it being done.

    11. But a politician convicted of a felony can continue to run for office and a writer or editor who lies and slanders individuals can continue to write. Neither of these folks lose their constitutional rights for the remainder of their lives here on earth. I do agree with this being part of a sentencing for a violent felon offender but do not believe that should be the case for non violent felons such as shop lifters. Where does it end if we let this continue?

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