A felony charge can be a major setback for an individual even though they have served their sentence fully. From getting jobs to a social life everything is affected. One of them is a gun permit.
Can a Felon Get a Gun Permit?
What does the law say?
It is prohibited for someone to be in possession of a firearm in the UK. (1) In the US: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Washington prohibits felons from possessing firearms while some states like Oregon and New York permits guns to felons if their rights are restored and certain offences are permitted. (2) While in Australia gun permits are not handed out if there is a record of prescribed offences, which include: sexual offences, violent offences, offences related to prohibited drugs, robbery, terrorism-related offences, offences relating to organized crime and criminal groups, firearms or weapons offences, fraud, dishonesty and stealing offences. (3)
Why a gun permit shouldn’t be handed out to ex-felons
Conventional wisdom dictates that an ex-felon will not repeat their crimes and the older they get the less likely they are to repeat their crimes. But a baffling discovery was made by the U.S. Sentencing Commission revealed that 45 percent of inmates are rearrested within 5 years of release. (4) But, the Bureau of Justice Statistics puts this number at 83 percent of state prisoners from across 30 states were arrested at least once in the 9 years after their release. (5) There are a few points of view that need to be discussed.
Morally speaking, a human does not have a right to own firearms for their own safety. Guns are dangerous, and thus can be used to kill someone or thing. Is it necessary and part of being a human being as suggested by some institutions like the NRA in the USA? (6) They even went as far as calling the protests against gun control unconstitutional. The question is almost equal to asking if killing someone is a necessary right for a human being. The obvious answer is no, apart from when defending one’s own life which is not the argument here. The argument here is about the possession of firearms that can potentially rid someone of their lives and the possession of it.
The credibility of a felon
As discussed above a criminal is not credible enough for almost half of the cases. Furthermore, there is a higher chance that the criminal will not leave his crooked paths if the intensity of crime is higher for example murder. (7) And guns are obviously not used for light offences.
So common sense dictates that a felon should never be handed a gun permit because he/she is usually not credible or reliable enough. Plus, it’s not even a human right.
Read Also: Can a Felon Become A Police Officer?
Why a gun permit should be handed out to felons
I have thought about many reasons and researched the reasons a gun permit should be handed out to felons. With the points noted above, I could not make sense of any. I thought of knives and how they are handed out to the common public, but they make sense because of other uses. A gun has only one use. In states like Texas, in the US there is a culture of using guns as entertainment and even states like Punjab in India.
Guns are used for celebrating events, shooting ranges as a sport, and hunting. Logically speaking, an ex-felon should have had changes in their behavior and have learned from their mistakes so that they don’t commit the same mistakes again. So, logic dictates that we can hand out guns to ex-felons since they have proven their credibility. They have been “rehabilitated”. I would like to quote one of my favorite lines by the character Red from the movie Shawshank Redemption:
“I know what you think it means, sonny. To me, it’s just a made-up word. A politician’s word, so young fellas like yourself can wear a suit and a tie and have a job. What do you really want to know? Am I sorry for what I did”
He goes on to express his regret about what he did. Rehabilitated in the real world fails. Because society is not perfect in itself. There is no way it can build a system to make individuals perfect for themselves.
So conventional wisdom again would dictate we should give out permits to individuals who are really sorry for their crimes and not just made to go in a cell for a few years.
But how do we measure someone’s sorrow and regret?
One of the ways would be to have a fixed amount of time after a felon gets released for observation. If the ex-felon has a stint of no-repeat crime or any “events” occur in his life, it would more or less prove that the felon would not repeat the mistake and would be “safe” enough. But practical life is different. (8) The New York Times articles list a few incidents of gun violence and how the observation fails with a failing judicial system.
The other method albeit resource-intensive is to introduce correction programs. For example, philosophy classes to inject good moral values into the felons and practice real-world values like acquiring job skills and self-control.
But why waste resources?
Around 0.088% of the population of the UK is in prison. (9) In terms of figures that are quite low. It does not make any sense to hand out gun permits and then have an observation time for them. Furthermore, if no permits are not handed out the crime rate creeps down anyways, and thus even lesser resources are wasted. It makes perfect sense to stop giving out permits that it’s a lot of life saves and a lot of headaches and resources saved for a justice system.
What do I think?
I think it makes perfect sense to stop giving out gun permits to felons, morally, logically, and philosophically. There can be a counter argument about the percentage of felons who genuinely regret their crime and would prefer to return to normal life. Again, as discussed above a normal life does not require weapons.
So, in conclusion, although gun permits are necessary to possess weapons, it is not a human right and most of the ex-felons aren’t credible enough to be trusted with guns that have the potential to do potential harm.
- Firearms | The Crown Prosecution Service [Internet]. [cited 2020 Oct 26]. Available from: https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/firearms
- NRA-ILA | State Gun Laws [Internet]. [cited 2020 Oct 26]. Available from: https://www.nraila.org/gun-laws/state-gun-laws/
- What are the laws in Australia for obtaining a firearm? [Internet]. [cited 2020 Oct 26]. Available from: https://www.guncontrolaustralia.org/how_do_you_obtain_a_firearm
- Sentencing Commission U. Recidivism Among Federal Offenders: A Comprehensive Overview UNITED STATES SENTENCING COMMISSION. 2016.
- Alper M, Durose MR, Statisticians B, Markman J, Statistician B. Special Report 2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism: A 9-Year Follow-up Period (2005-2014). 2018.
- US gun control: What is the NRA and why is it so powerful? – BBC News [Internet]. [cited 2020 Oct 26]. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-35261394
- The Oxford Handbook of Criminology. The Oxford Handbook of Criminology. 2014.
- Felons Finding It Easy to Regain Gun Rights – The New York Times [Internet]. [cited 2020 Oct 26]. Available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/14/us/felons-finding-it-easy-to-regain-gun-rights.html
- Prison population figures: 2018 – GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2020 Oct 26]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/prison-population-figures-2018