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  • How Are Convicted Felons Like the Japanese?

    Posted by James R. Rummel on November 8th, 2009 (All posts by )

    Citizens of Japan, with very few exceptions, are barred from even touching a single round of ammunition. Defy the law and they could end up in jail for five years.

    Convicted felons in the United States, or people who received a Dishonorable Discharge from the armed forces, are pretty much operating under the same restrictions. This section of Federal law has been the subject of much debate amongst those interested in armed self defense. I’ve decided to post about it because John of The Zeray Gazette fame is asking his readers if they agree with the practice.

    Just keep in mind that this is my opinion only, and I am certainly not a lawyer or government official by any stretch of the imagination. I’m sure that there will be plenty of stuff in the rambling post below to piss just about everyone off. But this is how see it.


    The United States can be said to be an experiment started during the heyday of The Age of Enlightenment, where reason was considered to be the sole legitimacy of authority. What is notable to the discussion at hand is that criminal law was codified in the new Republic as a social contract, an idea that was originally toyed with by Hobbes more than a century before the US was formed. What was revolutionary in this concept is that society is seen as a business, with everyone receiving benefits as long as they meet their own obligations to the country as a whole.

    Founding Fathers

    What does that verbose paragraph above actually mean? If you get with the program, you can fully participate. Screw around and you lose out.

    It is worth noting that convicted felons lose a great deal more than just 2nd Amendment rights. They cannot vote in Federal elections, are barred from holding or even running for most elected posts, can no longer serve in the armed forces. They crossed the big hairy line, committed a felony, and that proves they can not function as responsible members of society. They are not considered to be responsible citizens because they have chosen to act like anything but.

    Victim at Bay

    A good example would be that foreign citizens are also barred from owning firearms even while within our borders, as they are obviously not completely covered under the social contract of the US. (Kristopher says I’m wrong about that.) They might be expected to respect and obey our laws while here, and could very well be scrupulously law-abiding, but they don’t have anywhere near the same obligations that a citizen does.

    If you will, please consider that, should the US be attacked, no one would even suggest that foreign nationals be drafted to defend our country. Or, at least they wouldn’t short of a total catastrophe like a zombie apocalypse. But, if that happens, I bet even felons would be turned out of their cells and armed in an attempt to stem the undead hordes.

    Our culture, like just about every culture, has milestones in people’s lives. These can be seen as moments where everything changes. One second a certain set of conditions apply, but now new rules are enforced. In most states, you can legally begin to drive on your 16th birthday, vote on your 18th, and drink when you turn 21.

    Baby Criminal

    The same goes for the way laws are defined. Misdemeanors might be crimes, but they are small potatoes. The person who commits such petty offenses is punished, but not nearly as severely as if they turn their hands to felonies. Criminals who confine themselves to misdemeanors can still act as nearly full participants in our society, and they will suffer few penalties later in life if they decide to give up their criminal activities. (At least they will as long as they avoid getting arrested for domestic violence or non-felony drug possession. But the way that these misdemeanor crimes carry many of the same penalties of felonies will have to be left for another time.)

    But there is a line that should never be crossed. Commit petty crimes and it is assumed that you might still be able to meet your social obligations, but commit a felony and it is assumed that you are irredeemable. This is hardly a secret, as many of the criminals I have encountered are usually careful to keep from crossing that line.

    Still From Gun Crazy

    Speaking as someone who has actually held a law enforcement job, I can attest that you would have to go far and wide to find a felon who was a law abiding citizen and then, one day for whatever reason, they just up and decided that it was time to go and commit a major crime.

    The vast majority work their way up to it, gaining confidence through years of having the courts hand down small punishments for petty offenses, before finally taking the plunge. Barring felons from owning firearms does not mean that it is a sudden or hasty event in the light of the past history of most of them. If someone is interested in holding an opinion on this subject, then they are not being reasonable if they refuse to consider the track record of the people under discussion.

    Another factor to take under consideration is the recidivism rates of convicted felons. The majority quickly fall back into their old behaviors, causing a great deal of misery for those of us who walk the straight and narrow.

    Of the 272,111 persons released from prisons in 15 States in 1994, an estimated 67.5% were rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within 3 years, 46.9% were reconvicted, and 25.4% resentenced to prison for a new crime. The 272,111 offenders discharged in 1994 accounted for nearly 4,877,000 arrest charges over their recorded careers.”

    So most of these people will go on to cause even more damage to innocent people after they are released from prison. They will do it again, and again, and again. How is it a good idea to allow these people to legally arm themselves?

    LOL Cats, Evil and Good

    SUMMARY

    The US criminal justice system is designed to give people as many chances to be productive members of society as possible, but there are limits. A criminal who sticks to petty offenses can still get their life on track if they simply avoid committing any more crimes, but it is different the instant they are convicted of a felony. At that point, the criminal is considered to be too destructive to society at large, and many of their rights are suspended.

    Considering the damage of which they are capable, as well as how the majority continue to commit crimes even though they have been punished in the past, it seems obvious to me that barring felons from possessing firearms is a good idea. True, they will get them anyway through theft or the black market. But the fact that possession will add more time they are locked up and away from innocent victims is a good thing in my estimation.

    (Cross posted at Hell in a Handbasket.)

     

    8 Responses to “How Are Convicted Felons Like the Japanese?”

    1. jb Says:

      I would offer this response . . .

      The criminal justice system gets to decide what is a felony, and what is not. Understand that whatever–that decision is an opinion.

      Murder, rape, assault, ect.,–those go without saying. But a felony is, anymore, what ever a DA decides it should be.

      And the line in-between can get pretty murky–especially if the felony is perpetrated against the “police” . . .

      In Texas–cases after cases are being over-turned. Anyone who thinks Lady Justice can’t see through her blindfold, is fooling themselves.

      What our criminal justice system does to the innocent in the name of getting convictions and expanding resumes is just as bad. And unless a DA screws up totally (as did Nifong in the Duke lacrosse case), they are never reprimanded or punished for false or faulty convictions.

      In general I agree with your point–but, in specific cases (which all are), the criminal justice system is often more criminal than the “criminal(s)” they are prosecuting.

    2. James R. Rummel Says:

      “Murder, rape, assault, ect.,–those go without saying. But a felony is, anymore, what ever a DA decides it should be.”

      Sure, but that is a different subject. The question wasn’t “Is it still okay to deny convicted felons their 2nd Amendment rights since there is an ever increasing amount of less serious crimes now being lumped into that category?” It is just about felons, period.

      And, whatever your ideas about the expanding definition of a felony, those murderers, rapists, and people who have a yen for felonious assault and serious theft are still felons. Restoring the ability of convicted felons to legally acquire and own guns will include them as well. That wouldn’t be a good idea.

    3. jb Says:

      James–

      I appreciate your non-confrontational response–that rarely happens online . . .

      My point was–perhaps I could have stated it better . . .

      More and more infractions of the law are becoming felonies, and because of that, those “convicted” are now felons, and as such, they lose their constitutional rights. And when it happens in a contrived setting, the only “felon” is the DA, not the accused.

      Further clarification–I did not take issue with “true” felons being deprived of certain rights.

      If, as you said, “it’s just about felons” . . . then we must examine what constitutes “felony” according to the law, and not the local DA or judges.

      All the best–jb

    4. Tom Holsinger Says:

      Texas is pretty much sui generis in jurisprudence, what with it being okay there to appoint death penalty defense counsel with narcolepsy. Those who use Texas criminal law for any purpose save examples of legal horribles and justification of interminable federal habeas corpus review pretty much destroy their credibility.

      While I support the death penalty, IMO it should be banned in Texas so other states don’t have to put up with the delays, and expense, required in our own states so the federal courts can keep Texas from executing innocent people.

    5. Simon Kenton Says:

      “More and more infractions of the law are becoming felonies, and because of that, those “convicted” are now felons, and as such, they lose their constitutional rights.”

      – jb

      Yup. I was on the jury for a case of 5th degree felony trespass. A guy went into an unlocked girl’s room at college and wouldn’t leave for 10 minutes after she told him to. (They knew each other.) We hung – the majority would not convict and stick a 19-year-old with a felony for a would-be booty call gone awry, and he’d already been expelled. Now I took seriously my oath to convict if the case was proven, and it clearly was, so I was 1 of 3 who voted to convict. But it pissed me off, and I called the DA the next day to say the case never should have been brought as a felony.

    6. POWinCA Says:

      I believe in locking them up and throwing away the key. The reason crime rates dropped during the 1990s in the US was because the incarceration rate was so high. The cost of incarceration more than offsets the social costs of letting these people free.

      I vehemently grate against people saying that a released prisoner has “paid his debt to society”. No one ever “pays a debt” by serving prison time. Confinement pays nothing back to the victim. Good conduct is EXPECTED of all citizens in general and convicts in particular.

      The bottom line is that a convict’s debt to society is NEVER repaid. They owe a lifetime of honest living until the day they die.

      That said, in the rare event that a person does turn their life around, it would be difficult for a convicted felon to ever convince an employer to trust them. Indeed, given the choice between a reformed felon and an equally qualified person who has never committed a crime, no employer should ever hire the felon. Why punish the honest person?

      I have no answer to this dilemma.

      Let it be noted that Guiseppe Zangara, the man who attempted to assassinate FDR and killed the mayor of Chicago, was executed only 33 days after his crime. Now that is swift justice!

    7. TMLutas Says:

      Simon Kenton – If somebody is charged with a crime they should not be convicted of, you should vote to acquit. The cure for DA overcharging is to have their careers stunted by it. You stunt their careers by setting people free. If it’s done often enough, they get the message and stop letting people who should be convicted of a crime out on the streets due to the DA’s obscene wish to overcharge.

    8. Jonathan Says:

      I agree with TMLutas. Some defendants are charged with serious crimes when they should be charged with misdemeanors or not at all. Some behaviors are criminalized that shouldn’t be. Some laws are vague. Some prosecutors try to manipulate prospective jurors during voir dire into committing to convict if hypothetical conditions specified by the prosecutor are met. Jurors as well as prosecutors have significant discretion. There are situations in which jurors should acquit because the case is such a prosecutorial overreach that it justifies a very high level of reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt.