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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.)