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Should Felons Be Allowed to Own Guns?

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I’m sure it’s no surprise that I’m a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment. I carry a gun daily — as I’m writing this, I’ve got a Sig Sauer P238 in my pocket and a Springfield 1911 on my desk.

However, I also believe in responsible gun ownership and keeping guns out of “bad guys’” hands. Now, most people would probably agree that convicted felons are bad guys, right? So ask yourself this: Should a convicted felon be allowed to own a gun?

Before you answer, let’s take a look at what happened to Arizona state trooper Edward Andersson.

Police searching man

Road Rage

Last month, Andersson was ambushed while responding to an emergency call on Interstate 10, west of Phoenix. After setting up road flares, Andersson was shot in the shoulder with a 9 mm pistol by Leonard Pennelas-Escobar, who then charged the trooper and began slamming his head into the ground.

As the pair struggled, a passing motorist witnessed the attack and stopped to help. This good Samaritan removed his own 9 mm handgun from the center console and approached Andersson and Pennelas-Escobar, giving verbal commands for the suspect to stop beating the officer.

The suspect ignored him, so the Samaritan fired at least two shots, temporarily incapacitating Pennelas-Escobar. While the good Samaritan attempted to render aid to Andersson, the suspect attempted to assault the officer again. The good Samaritan fired one more shot, resulting in a fatal head wound. The trooper was then airlifted to a local hospital, where he spent the weekend recovering.

An Unlikely Hero

Now, here’s where the story gets really interesting. The good Samaritan was later identified as Thomas Yoxall, a convicted felon.

In 2000, Yoxall stole electronics from a group home where he worked, resulting in a charge of felony theft. Under federal law, a convicted felon is ineligible to own a firearm. This ban includes nonviolent felonies, with the exception of antitrust violations, unfair trade practices, restraints of trade or other similar offenses relating to the regulation of business practices.

That being said, felony charges can be expunged or reduced, which would result in certain civil rights being restored. So in 2003, Yoxall petitioned the court to restore his right to bear arms. In October of that year, a Superior Court judge vacated Yoxall’s guilty judgement, granting him the privilege of once again owning a gun.

It’s clear from the story above that a man’s life was saved because a convicted felon was given another opportunity to own a gun. Does that change your answer?

Consider This

Statistically, 75% of felons are rearrested within five years of release, more than half within the first year. Obviously, these data don’t support the argument that criminals should be able to own firearms, but keep in mind that a large majority of criminals don’t obtain their firearms legally.

What if a person was convicted of a nonviolent felony years — perhaps decades — ago, served their time and has continued to be a productive member of society ever since? Should that person be automatically prohibited from owning a gun ever again?

On the other hand, if someone has been convicted of violating the law to the extent of obtaining a felony charge, should society trust them with a deadly weapon? Anti-gun groups would say absolutely not, because they want to keep guns away from as many people as possible. But many of the strongest Second Amendment supporters tend to agree with these groups that convicted felons, at least, should not be allowed to own firearms.

Personally, I think applicants ought to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis just as they are now. Because while we don’t want a convicted ax murderer buying a gun, a kid who made a stupid choice and stole some electronics 16 years ago should be able to earn a second chance.

There’s no easy answer, but it’s certainly worth the discussion.

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27 Comments

  • William says:

    I was convicted of a felony many years ago…..cant afford a lawyer to help petition the courts…..my felony was non violent and alcohol related….. since then I’m a non drinker, have gone through an alcohol rehab program and have only been in trouble for not wearing my seatbelt…….i have an art in my home and was told since my felonies are so old I could have it in my home for defense but not take it outside.
    I grew up hunting and lost all my family firearms when I got convicted and they took them from me…..in my opinion it is depending on the felony and when the person was convicted….. I was also in the military prior to my conviction but used alcohol to treat my ptsd .

  • Dr. Richard Stone says:

    I believe that when a person has served their time in prison (their payment to society) they deserve ALL of their rights to be restored unless the crime they committed was with a firearm in a felonious manner.

  • DJK says:

    I am in a similar boat…18years old, got a 10 year sentence over felony criminal mischief… got probation 10yeaes and sent to boot camp…served 10 years in armed forces and carried and used multiple weapons systems now I want my rights restored in Texas.

    • Richard McGannon, Esq. says:

      1) Thank you for your service.

      2) You should petition the Court for restoration of your Civil liberties. You should succeed if your offense was non violent.

      Talk to a pro 2nd Amendment group or Lawyer and educate yourself to the process. Do it NOW. Texas will always need a good guy with a gun to stop bad guys.

  • J.Walters says:

    I think most people do not realize how easy it is to get charged with a felony. Foe example you and the wife have an argument and the police are called. it’s an almost an automatic Felony Domestic violence. However you public attorney will want you to plead guilty,your well paid private will get you out of that. Justice is expensive get “justice” in our system

  • David says:

    White collar felons should be able to get all their rights restored, including firearms rights. Punishment into perpetuity is insane. Violent felons, should be dispatched via the death penalty.

    Martha Stewart (who likely would never want to own a firearm) should not have her Second Amendment rights stripped.

  • Cmac says:

    “Personally, I think applicants ought to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis just as they are now.”

    When the felon has completed his full sentence (jail time plus probation) the review should be automatic and his/her rights restored unless there is a compelling reason to not do so.

  • Someone says:

    I concur that someone who has led a law biding life after serving their sentence can petition the court to restore their civil rights including gun rights. They have to submit evidence to the court including depositions, statements from reliable people, etc thru the Prosecutors office. Washington State has a procedure the person must follow, it is not easy but can be done.

  • johnw1120 says:

    I agree with you, a felony is something handed out by the courts and is not necessarily based on common sense when it comes to the type of crime committed where it should always effect 2nd amendment rights. There is no question that all anti-gun activists (read anti-gun loons), want to take away as many guns as possible, the majority of “white collar” crimes fall into this spot, a decision to write bad checks does not necessarily indicate the desire to murder or rob a convenience store. We must not allow these loons to use every little avenue to work to disarm us.

  • Fred Clement says:

    Thought-provoking and opinion-challenging. I have to agree with you. Great story.
    Fred

  • Pedro Nival says:

    The danger that exist in today’s society, warrants individual/personal representation on every matter that curtails or otherwise limits a persons rights/privileges. A case by case perspective should be taken. If a felon has not been convicted of a violent crime, then in such a cases it should be adjudicated as to whether rights, such as the right to bear arms, can be reinstated. Otherwise in the current reading of law, on the basis of the need to protect yourself, an ex-felon has no ability to protect himself, and if found with a weapon, it becomes a legal issue that he can be charged for possession of a firearm by a known felon. In an effort of self protection and without a propensity toward violence, even an ex-felon should be able to arm himself for self protection. .

  • John Carman says:

    I am former law enforcement in the U.S. Secret Service, SDPD, U.S. Mint Police and U.S> Customs & Immigration over 25 years and carried a gun most of my life.
    I am also a Federal Whistle-blower and most people do not know anything about the laws or guns.
    Back in the old days of the West, a man went to prison and served his “time” and when he was released he got his horse, $100 in gold and his gun.
    To release a man without those was suicide which I believe a condition that still exists today.
    These days the “Gun grabbers” are doing everything they can to take our guns including convicting people of trumped up charges
    to get a felony conviction. That prevents most people of owning a gun, including former law enforcement or people who are “Politically”
    against the Left Wingers.
    In California t is really bad.
    The main point is very important people have been killed by Government assassins due to the fact that the victim was “disarmed” prior which is no different than Remember Nazi Germany and the Jews that were killed in mass? They were ALL disarmed prior to the collection.
    Our Country was based on Patriots with GUNS to defend their FREEDOM and not being disarmed and getting shot by a Dictator or King George of England.
    I follow Thomas Jefferson and WE the People must be free.
    Otherwise, what is the purpose of serving time in prison and NOT getting all your rights back? I am NOT talking about voting either.

  • Mike says:

    I think the bigger question should be “should a convicted felon who is not allowed to vote or own a gun be able to hold public office?” Once you have done your time then your rights should be restored. Second offense then you lose all of them forever.

    I am ok with certain violent felons losing their rights to vote,
    Keep and bear arms, etc forever, but not all felons.

  • Tony Ostrowski says:

    Great article, Jason.

    I am a convicted felon from 30 years ago this coming April. I was convicted of Burglary because I walked into a house that some friends of mine had broken into. I won’t go into further details except to say that yes, I was guilty by association; I knew what they were doing and even went along with them to watch their back. I have kept my nose clean and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. I grew up in a hunting family and I have had a strong desire to be able to hunt once again with my step children, nieces and nephews to mentor them and their children in the near future.

    It angers me when I am stereotyped as being a threat to society because of my conviction; especially with job searches. This was the reason that I went to college. I went when I was 35 because, even though it is illegal, I was denied employment because of my conviction, even though I was qualified and had years of experience. I could write a book my experiences alone.

  • I FIRMLY AGREE WITH AND HAVE FOR MANY YEARS NOW. MY BELIEF IS THAT EVERY CITIZEN HAS THE RIGHT TO DEFEND THEMSELVES SO THAT MEANS EVERYONE SHOULD BE ABLE TO OWN A GUN IN THEIR OWN HOMES. IF SOMEONE COMMITTED A FELONY AND THEY HAVE SERVED THE TIME FOR THEIR CRIME THEN THEY SHOULD HAVE EVERY RIGHT AS ANY OTHER CITIZEN, WHICH INCLUDES VOTING.

  • Well, it is safe to say that some folks will not like my answer, but here it is anyway. If you watch some old westerns such as “High Noon” you will see some men getting out of Yuma prison, being given their pistols and gun belts back, and riding off. That is the way it was until 1968. When Pretty Boy Floyd was paroled from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary (where I served as the Medicine Man for the Native Americans there for four years) he was given back his Thompson M1 Submachine Gun.

    This was the way it was until 1968 because the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. However in 1968 President Lyndon B. Johnson, a liberal Democrat from Texas, made it “illegal” for convicted felons to own or even be around a firearm, and a bunch of stupid people thought that was a great idea. You see, it was stupid because that has been the precedent that was set for the further violation of that inalienable right that was guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, and every time some police officer enforces it, or someone else condones denying those rights to a convicted felon then those oh so righteous individuals have become domestic enemies of the Constitution and so are traitors.

    So, I will say this to you, if a felon has a gun, and someone tries to arrest him for it, or to take it away from him,he has the God given right to defend himself, his property, and his right to keep and bear arms. There can be no exceptions here. If the felon doesn’t have the right to keep and bear arms then neither does anyone else, and since most people would think it sounded reasonable then that is why that Democratic President with an agenda that, no doubt, Obama and Clinton agreed with totally, then the fight has been on ever since then, and it will continue to be on until that illegal and unconstitutional law is done away with. And, who knows? Maybe the only President I have been willing to claim since Ronald Reagan (Trump) will make that happen. He has a lot guts and good sense so maybe he will do it since he is definitely pro-Second Amendment.

  • Of course they should. I mean, if the Citizen didn’t commit some henious crime with a weapon, then why not? I mean, Illegals are carrying weapons daily and its cool for most open border, one world government supporters, but if a citizen needs to defend himself, as according to the Constitution, then again, why not?

  • Doug Cox says:

    Generally speaking, convicted felons with a firearm is a bad idea, but some measure of justice tempered by mercy is needed. Was the conviction for violence or not? Has the felon gone beyond the fall from social grace to become a solid, contributing citizen over some as-yet-undefined period of trust-building? Is the upstanding citizen of today going to be redefined by some future government as a felon for currently legal activities, political expression, or organizational association? We recently came very close to having that happen to us under the last administration and its intended successor.

    Under the provisions of the 1968 Act, which made possession of firearms by felons a crime, felons convicted prior to the Act were included as ineligible to possess. That has always seemed to me to be a violation of the Constitutional prohibition against “ex post facto” legislation; i.e., adding penalties to convictions after the actual crime was committed. Likewise, a later Act, which denied firearms rights to persons convicted of “domestic Abuse” applied to persons convicted prior to the Act – another seeming violation against the ex post facto prohibition. The outfall of the latter Act was to permanently prohibit military and police members previously convicted of domestic abuse from “bearing arms”, thereby effectively terminating careers. Nothing I am saying is in defense of criminality or domestic abuse, but the Constitution, a bigger issue, has been violated.

    More recently still, prosecution of certain misdemeanor violators who potentially could have gotten sentences of a year (though rarely getting such sentences) and certain felons who received less than the usual more-than-yearlong sentences have resulted in their loss of firearms rights.

    I guess my point here is that the prosecutors and ATF officials have become especially creative in finding ways to deny more categories of people their rights. What’s next?

  • Robert Marquart says:

    I believe in review and consideration on a case by case basis. Sig’s P238 is one of my favorites. My wife owns one and loves it. I’m pretty sure it will be my next purchase. On Saturday I received a solicitation from supposedly one of your sponsors,
    Bob Pierce Pres. FightFast/TRS. If this knife offer was from you I would not hesitate taking a chance on it but I’ve never heard of this man nor his outfit. Without knowing where my credit card information is going I’m skeptical of giving it. If this is indeed someone you trust I’ll give it a try.

  • TIM says:

    BEING A FELON MYSELF I SEE WHERE EVERYONES COMMING FROM . SEE I DID MY TIME 30 YEARS AGO ( HAVEN’T BEEN IN TROUBLE SINCE ) FOR A CRIME I NEVER DID I, I KNOW EVERYONE SAYS THAT BUT SOME OF US DO TELL THE TRUTH . SO BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE TO IGNORANT TO ACTUALLY LISTEN & BELIVE THEIR OWN STORIES ( THE COPS ) , I DID MY TIME IT KILLED ME CAUSE I LOST EVERYTHING I OWNED THAT I DIDN’T MIND IT WAS MY RIGHTS TO CARRY A GUN FOR PROTECTION FOR ME AND MY FAMILY . AS FAR AS THESE LIBERALS LAY YOU 10 TO 1 ODDS IF THEIR HOUSE WAS GETTING ROBBED OR WERE IN GRAVE DANGER THEY WOULD CALL SOMEONE WITH A GUN ( THE COPS ) , I HATE BEING JUDGED BY OTHERS BY BECAUSE OF THIS CONVICTION I LIVE BY MY OWN CODE DTA ( DON’T TRUST ANYONE ) . TRIED EVERYTHING TO GET MY RIGHTS BACK BUT NOTHING HELPED SO IF ANYONE KNOWS HOW PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHO KNOWS MAYBE JASON CAN HELP US EX CONS

  • Nelson says:

    I to fall into the same as other people I was convicted of a felony in 1968 at the age of 18 I am now almost 68 and I also come from a hunting family, I am like many people that do not have the money to fight this. I have also been denied employment due to my conviction, the one time in my life that screwed up and I will pay for it until I am dead the system needs to be changed.

  • John says:

    I am a convicted felon have the same hardships as everyone. As the world gets more dangerous I have started feeling the urge to buy a weapon to defend my loved one and home. However I have also gotten creative and have armed myself self in other ways that are legal and just as deadly. But my thoughts on the matter wander to this. IF I have no rights because of my conviction then essentialy I have no country. With that being said my home has now become a sovereign State because I do not have the right to vote or voice my say in who represents me. So the way I see see it as long as that weapon stays in the home for home defense then ther is no issue anyone should have with me owning it. If I take it beyond the confines of my property then I am in the wrong. You cannot rely on the cops to come a protect you. A good example not to long ago my girl friend and I were at a Hotel in Pueblo Colorado. I heard gun shots so I went out to check. A man caame running in to the hotel yelling help they are shooting at me. It took the Pueblo PD 1 hour to get to the scene! **** THAT I have alternative ways with legal items to defend my hme that are just as deadly.

  • TIM says:

    DOES ANYONE KNOW HOW FAR BACK THEY CHECK FOR THESE BACKROUND CHECKS

  • James Giffen says:

    I too know a friend with a felony conviction. He was young and gave a girl a joint. An under cover officer threw $20 on the ground because he would not take it! He did not even smoke pot himself, he only got it for the girl and she set him up. It was months later they came back and charged him with a felony for selling that joint. His PD convinced him to plead guilty and he would do no jail time. Unfortunately he still got the felony conviction. This was like 40 yrs ago and has not been in any trouble since then. This is not fair . He is NO THREAT to society and is one of the most upstanding people I know.. Besides that, everyone must know that criminals don’t buy their guns legally anyway. Liberals are idiots if they think they can keep guns out of the hands of REAL criminals. My2 cents for what it’s worth.

  • Paul says:

    Same boat have had my rights restored in Arizona and still cannot purchase a firearm. I live in the great state of Komifornia.

  • My name is Earl Currie . My story is different than most . I am an ex-felon i am 42 yrs old. I have a fiance a 2 year old and a six year old . I was convicted as a teenager because of an accident . A few years later i was approached by an ex high school classmate . i ended up drawn into something that i didnt want to be envolved in. One particular day that so called friend i called from help too advantage of my sitituation . I had the same prosecutor , i feel that he took advantage of me as well
    by approaching me at the jail before i had even been arraigned or talk to a lawyer needlees to say i was still young and stupid. I vote ,pay taxes, im a full time father and im engaged . I’m in the process of starting my own painting company as well. I am Still an American. We dont live in a time where we can sleep comfortable even with alarm systems. One night my daughter birthday ballon got entangled in the ceiling fan. The noise startled me out of my sleep in the pitch black i couldnt see anything it sound like both front and back doors were being kicked in . All i could do was howl as loud as i could to try and scared what i thought might be intruders. In the end i thought if it was someone breaking in how could i have defended my family if this was a real break in event . I tired of being denied that right simply because of my past.

  • I argued with a judge. I asked that if I have to pay child support and report my earnings and any and all increases or decreases in income that my “baby momma” should too.
    The court case dragged on as I fought for the fairness; Not the requirement. Unfortunately, the courts didn’t agree with my views and I was convicted of felony contempt of court and sent to prison for 10 months. (I was credited with 4 months in jail awaiting sentencing.)
    I have been out of prison for 8 years and haven’t so much as had a littering ticket.
    No gun for me. I now live in Arizona surrounded by open desert and still fear what will happen if I get caught with the guns in my house.
    I won’t give up my protection even if it means I have to return to prison.

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