Let's imagine that Granny above was a little bit wilder in her youth and ended up convicted of a felony. Maybe she snorted some coke. Maybe she shoplifted. Maybe she spray painted a neighborhood fence. Does that mean that she should lose the right to defend herself in her home for the rest of her life? While it sounds absurd, we do this to people every day. If someone is convicted of any felony in Virginia, they lose their Second Amendment rights indefinitely. It doesn't matter if the conviction had nothing to do with violence. It doesn't matter if the convictions are 40 years old. It doesn't matter if someone has led a perfect life since the conviction. The simple equation is felony conviction = loss of gun rights. To make matters worse, Virginia bans felons from even possessing stun guns. Sorry Grandma, you dirty dangerous criminal, if you want protection in your home, you better sharpen that cane.
How does the government get away with this? The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the right to own a firearm for self-defense in the home is a fundamental constitutional right. How does the government justify taking a core constitutional right from people with absolutely no history of violent behavior? The constitutional law for dummies question is what legitimate government interest exists in taking guns (and even stun guns) away from people who have been convicted of things like fraud, larceny, possession of more than 1/2 ounce of weed, destruction of property, joyriding, or any of the other hundreds of non-violent felonies? Ponder.
Don't hurt yourself Marky; there is no good answer. I'm all for getting guns out of the hands of dangerous people. If someone commits a violent crime, a logical argument can be made that he/she can't be trusted with a gun. But that logic simply does not extend to people who have never demonstrated a propensity to violence. If anything there's an argument to be made that non-violent felons need their Second Amendment rights more than the average person. Because convicted felons tend to have lousy job prospects, they tend to live in crappy crime infested neighborhoods where the need for protection is the highest.
I'm the last person who you would expect to be writing a pro gun-rights piece. I definitely fall on the liberal side of the gun control debate. But there is nothing liberal about taking away constitutional rights for no good reason. There's nothing conservative about it either. It's just plain crazy. And what compounds the craziness is that the Virginia General Assembly has decided in their infinite wisdom to impose mandatory minimum prison sentences on even non-violent felons who possess guns. (2 years mandatory prison time for non-violent felons whose convictions are within the past 10 years).
I've seen some federal court opinions justify non-violent felon gun bans on the basis that felons have historically been viewed as "unvirtuous" people. And well..."unvirtuous" people can't be trusted with guns.
Legislatures have extended the felony label to so many crimes that the term felon has become completely untethered from the the idea of someone being dangerous. The true and legitimate purpose of felon gun bans is to keep guns out of the hands of demonstrably dangerous people. If someone was convicted of a crime that did not involve violence, there is simply no logical argument that person is any more likely than the average citizen to commit an act of violence in the future. If we can't understand that, we're nothing more than pathetic peeing-in-our-pants scaredy cats.
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