New York Times – One Strike and You’re Out for Gun Rights

by Ken Hanson, Esq.

Michael Luo of The New York Times has published another article in his continuing series of articles examining the restoration of firearm rights to those convicted of disqualifying crimes.

From the article:

Ken Hanson, legislative chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Coalition, argued that felons should be able to reclaim their gun rights just as they can other civil rights.

"If it's a constitutional right, you treat it with equal dignity with other rights," he said.

I first spoke with Michael the second week of August. We also had a few follow-up phone calls through late October to early November. The NYT article was published this weekend, and I received several email notes about the article from supporters and detractors.

Here is my problem with the current system: One strike and you are out.

Current federal law imposes a lifetime firearm disqualification upon any Ohio resident convicted of an offense as simple as minor-misdemeanor disorderly conduct with a family member. This isn't my opinion or hysterical conjecture – it is established federal law. A disorderly conduct conviction is not even punishable by jail and no more than a $150 fine – LIFETIME firearm disability. Float a check for a certain amount of money, turn 18 years old and your minor girlfriend decides to celebrate your birthday with you in the budoir sans clothes – LIFETIME firearm disability.

Are you an armed forces veteran who has asked that your pension be paid to your spouse or a power of attorney because your ability to manage money isn't what it used to be? LIFETIME firearm disability.

Possessing a firearm for self-protection is a fundamental constitutional right. That is a matter of law. However, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the same breath, also said that certain people could be denied this right. While I don't necessarily agree with that, it is established law. It is also established law that if a court chooses to restore firearm rights, that is OK.

We rely upon our courts and prosecutors to exercise discretion on a daily basis. They are entrusted with the most sensitive of judgment calls in every other area of law. Whether or not to restore firearm rights should be no different.

You might not know this, but in Ohio, the only constitutional right that is automatically deprived FOR LIFE is the right to own a firearm. If a right is, in fact, a right, then it needs to be treated equally with all other rights. In Ohio, these same people should be deprived of the right to go to church, write letters to the editor, vote, be free from search and seizure, forcibly have troops quartered in their house, be free from warrantless arrest etc. Until the legislature, for instance, wants to pass a law making it illegal for someone convicted of minor misdemeanor disorderly conduct to get an abortion or vote, we are dealing with two different classes of rights. That is a slippery slope we must not venture down.

Anti-gun forces utilize a very predictable playbook. One page in that playbook is to attack that which is not politically popular. "Saturday Night Specials" were the whipping boy of the 70s, then we moved on to "assault weapons" and 50 caliber rifles. Attack that which is not popular, which few dare to defend, and you have the camel's nose in the tent and it is that much easier to come back for the next ban, and the one after that. You see this in OVI law, sexual offender law etc. Drunk drivers to not have a very effective pro-drunk driving lobby, nor do those convicted of sex crimes. Similarly, those under firearm disability do not have a very good public relations machine nor a PAC.

Firearm rights are just that – rights, and they should be treated equally with all other rights. What is good for one right is good for all rights. Only in the case of firearm rights is that maxim not true, instead requiring a laborious application process to be restored to firearm rights. People would not stand for that if the same process was used for other rights. Restoring firearm rights is a carefully vetted and rare process. The New York Times is trying to convince you otherwise.

After all, who would defend the rights of someone under firearm disability, even if that disability was something as simple as a disorderly conduct?

Ken Hanson is a gun rights attorney in Ohio. He serves as the Legislative Chair for Buckeye Firearms Association, and is the attorney of record for Buckeye Firearms Foundation, which filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the Heller and McDonald Supreme Court cases. The National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) has awarded him with its 2008 Defender of Justice Award and 2009 Jay M. Littlefield Volunteer of the Year Award. He is the author of The Ohio Guide to Firearm Laws, a certified firearms instructor and holds a Type 01 Federal Firearms License.

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