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September 16, 2013

Senator Rand Paul talking up restoring voting and gun rights for felons, as well as sentencing reform

I-love-randMy (unhealthy? appropriate?) bromance with U.S. Senator Rand Paul has reached a whole new level based on this notable new article from Kentucky.  The piece is headlined "Sen. Rand Paul calls for restoring felons' voting, gun rights," and here are excerpts:

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul told a largely black audience Monday in Louisville that he will push to restore the voting and gun-ownership rights of felons who have completed their sentences — and he will urge state Senate Republicans to follow his lead. Currently in Kentucky, felons must petition the governor to get their voting rights restored.

“I am in favor of letting people get their rights back, the right to vote ... Second Amendment rights, all your rights to come back,” he said. “I know of one man who 30-some-odd years ago had pot plants in his closet in college, got a felony conviction in college, still can’t vote, and it’s plagued him his whole life trying to get work.”

The Republican’s comments came at the Plymouth Community Renewal Center in western Louisville as he spoke with community leaders about issues that affect African Americans. Additionally, as he has done in the past, he called for doing away with mandatory minimum sentences in the federal criminal justice system, saying they are often too harsh.

The Rev. Patrick Delahanty, the executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky and who was not at the meeting, applauded Paul’s stance on restoring voting rights in a later interview. He said Paul’s comments could help advance the issue during the next session of the General Assembly....

Paul said during the meeting in western Louisville that he believes felons should have their rights restored automatically — either immediately after completing their sentences or at some specified point after the sentences are served. He said he plans to talk to leaders in the Kentucky Senate about their opposition and would be willing to travel to Frankfort to testify in favor of legislation to restore voting rights....

The League of Women Voters found in a 2006 study that nearly one in four African Americans is banned from the polls because of a felony conviction, compared with 1 in 17 Kentuckians overall.

Paul, who has said he is considering running for president in 2016, has been meeting with African-American groups in an effort to bridge the gap between blacks and the Republican Party. Paul also met this year with students at the historically black Howard University in Washington, D.C., and then later with students at historically black Simmons College in Louisville.

During an hourlong discussion Monday, Paul listened as black leaders talked about issues that hinder African Americans’ ability to get a leg up and fully participate in the community. Much of their concern centered around helping black men who committed crimes but have turned their lives around.

This AP article about Senator Paul's comments today also contributes to my man-love for this GOP leader:

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul drew a favorable response Monday in a mostly black Louisville neighborhood as the tea party favorite promoted the ideas of giving judges more sentencing flexibility, restoring voting rights for felons and offering tax breaks to lure businesses into struggling communities....

Paul spoke with a group of ministers and community activists during a meeting that lasted more than an hour. The senator told the group at the Plymouth Community Renewal Center that the "War on Drugs" unfairly targeted blacks. "We went crazy on the 'War on Drugs,'" the libertarian-leaning senator said. "Drugs aren't good. We should have some laws. ... We have to figure out how to go forward, so changing those laws is important."

Paul criticized federal mandatory minimum penalties that he said have clogged prisons with non-violent drug offenders. Blacks make up a disproportionately high number of those inmates, he said. "We have people in jail for life for non-violent drug crimes," he said. "I think this is a crime, in and of itself."

The first-term senator is a leading sponsor behind legislation that would give federal judges greater flexibility in sentencing. The measure is scheduled to be reviewed at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing later this week.

"Mandatory minimums have trapped a lot of people, made them felons, made it hard for them to get jobs, for non-violent crimes," Paul said. "I would just as soon take some of these non-violent crimes and make them misdemeanors so you don't get in that trap."

Paul said he's also considering legislation that would restore voting rights for non-violent felons of federal crimes. The bill is still in draft form, he said, but the restoration of rights would apply to non-violent offenders who haven't committed other crimes for perhaps five years.

Paul said such a bill would especially be aimed at people who committed drug offenses as young adults — which he referred to as a "youthful mistake." Such offenders pay for those indiscretions for decades to come, he said. "I think the biggest problem right now with voting rights is ... not being allowed to vote because the law says you can never vote," he said.

Some recent and older related posts:

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Comments

At one time I thought Sen. Paul was not as much of a wacko extremist as his father.

I apologize for my error.

And his father didn't pander to racially selected audiences. Maybe Sen. Paul could do some tag-team matches with Al Sharpton, from whom he seems increasingly indistinguishable.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 17, 2013 12:24:18 AM

I am astonished that any person would propose automatic restoration of all rights of ▬►A¯L¯L◄▬ felons upon completion of their sentence ‼

Docile Jim Brady – Columbus OH 43209
Associate Member OACDL*
*Typing for myself „ not the OACDL
Nemo Me Impune Lacessit

Paul said during the meeting in western Louisville that he believes felons should have their rights restored automatically — either immediately after completing their sentences or at some specified point after the sentences are served.

Posted by: Just Plain Jim | Sep 17, 2013 6:20:21 AM

I am not a supporter of Domestic Violence as it prohibits gun ownership.

Nor OWI'S as it does the same when the magic nbr is reached / state.

But, restore gun rights to all felons... I'm sure that one will fly Rand.

If he thinks his end to MM could have a chance of getting legs, this pretty much shoots it down.

MAybe he is a flower child and just left a seminar in San Francisco? Wow, really and he wants to run for President.

He currently has input on our countrys future.

We need to make a rule: No Congress or US senate seats can be occupied unless one has 20 yrs
working out in the world.. It has to be in the private sector, not government of institutional work.

Then we would get people that are functionaable and know what it is to meet payrolls, pay bills
and a sense of what Joe Avg goes thru each day... Its a good thing....(Martha Stewart)

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Sep 17, 2013 9:39:31 AM

Bill, which part seems crazy to you? You know he is a libertarian and most libertarians oppose mandatory minimums. Is it the restoration of voting rights for nonviolent felons? Or of gun rights?

Posted by: Thinkaboutit | Sep 17, 2013 10:13:33 AM

--"The League of Women Voters found in a 2006 study that nearly one in four African Americans is banned
from the polls because of a felony conviction"--

How many of them are non-violent?

Kentucky is one of the 12 most restrictive states, yet currently offers an "executive pardon [for] an individual convicted
of a felony after completion of his/her sentence." {felonvoting.procon.org}

Posted by: Adamakis | Sep 17, 2013 10:43:54 AM

Midwest Guy:

"We need to make a rule: No Congress or US senate seats can be occupied unless one has 20 yrs working out in the world.. It has to be in the private sector, not government of institutional work."

You do realize that this would eliminate about 95% of all "lawmakers", aka, vote whores.

Even our own beloved Bill could not run for a federal lawmaker position, much less any local office.

I think the correct response to Rand Paul's proposal is, "Let's think and discuss it" as more and more misdemeanor type crimes are classified as felonies by our tough on crime crowd.

Rights are God-given, not government given. Certain limitations are appropriate when one has caused another any type of harm, but on a completion of sentence, ALL rights should be returned. Only cowards in our government claiming (lying) to make us "safer" by these rules truly believe their own bilge. I will take responsibility for my own safety, THANK YOU!. Everytime I thought I had a need of local safety protectors (twice), they were basically worthless.

Posted by: albeed | Sep 17, 2013 11:07:03 AM

What's the rationale for taking away voting rights of felons in the first place? Is it anything beyond "you committed a serious crime against society, therefore you are not allowed to participate in electing society's leaders"? If part of the punishment, once the prison time is served and the fine paid, is there any rationale for continuing the punishment of precluding voting for the rest of the felon's life? I don't see a good reason for a lifetime loss of voting rights once the rest of the sentence is discharged (except maybe in the narrow category of cases involving voting fraud).

Posted by: Webb Wassmer | Sep 17, 2013 11:34:58 AM

This is not a surprise, he is consistent. The surprise is his fortitude. Articulating these principles as a basis for policy change pushes the limits for realignment of conservatives and progressives. Kind of refreshing.

Posted by: beth | Sep 17, 2013 1:06:57 PM

Thinkaboutit --

I'm in sympathy with the (substantial) part of the libertarian agenda that calls for rolling back the size and expense of government. But Paul takes it too far.

1. For reasons I have already set forth at length, I favor MM's. One can have a rationale debate about what crimes they should apply to and how high or low they should be. But one cannot rationally say that Congress should NEVER be able to tell a judge that, for some serious crimes, a rock-bottom sentence of X is going to be required. Handing over 100% discretion to the judicial branch would be very unwise.

2. I don't oppose restoring voting rights to non-violent criminals so long as they demonstrate over a substantial period of time after their prison terms are over that they have led a law-abiding life. I am opposed to immediate and automatic restoration.

3. Liberal hypocrisy on gun rights is astounding. First they furiously opposed the winning, pro-gun side in Heller, then turned on a dime to wail for the gun rights they had been telling us for decades were the Devil's Spawn -- but not gun rights for normal people, only for convicted criminals!

As the Heller dictum establishes, and the courts have uniformly held since then, the states can constitutionally withhold gun rights from people who might reasonably be thought to be dangerous. It is also up to the states to determine what classes of people meet that description.

My own approach would mirror the one I have with voting rights: Not a blanket prohibition, but a case-by-case review in which the former convict bears the burden of demonstrating that he can be trusted with guns.

P.S. The reason to be cautious about allowing criminals legally to have guns is that criminals as a class are vastly more likely than average to use guns for offense rather than defense.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 17, 2013 1:10:51 PM

"Liberal hypocrisy on gun rights is astounding. First they furiously opposed the winning, pro-gun side in Heller, then turned on a dime to wail for the gun rights they had been telling us for decades were the Devil's Spawn -- but not gun rights for normal people, only for convicted criminals!"

First, a myriad of liberals support gun rights though they might agree with certain aspects (including some of the reasoning) of Heller. Prof. Sandy Levinson, e.g., is a leading liberal and he spoke in support of gun rights for decades (see, e.g., his seminal work on the 'embarrassing 2A').

Second, it is quite pragmatic for anyone, and each side does this, to accept certain rulings as fait accompli at some point, and use them to promote their causes. I find this far from "astounding," nor should a man of the world like Mr. Otis.

As to Sen. Paul, over time, his comments tend to sound a lot less radical than they appear. So, e.g., he filibusters for hours on end, and is satisfied by a sentence from AG Holder that people could have told him about previously. His stance on drugs criminalization, when pressed, is a matter of degree. Same:

"Paul said during the meeting in western Louisville that he believes felons should have their rights restored automatically — either immediately after completing their sentences or at some specified point after the sentences are served."

Some specified point? Heck, Bill Otis seems to find that acceptable if the right conditions are met. The bromance might, like many a romance, cool a tad.


Posted by: Joe | Sep 17, 2013 5:05:49 PM

"they might agree" should be "they might disagree"

Happy Constitution Day, Sen. Paul!

Posted by: Joe | Sep 17, 2013 5:07:30 PM

All former prisoners will vote for the Democratic Party if their voting rights are restored.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 18, 2013 12:20:38 AM

Is there a term for the opposite of romance or crush, as in, hatred? I [blank] them all.

Paul Rand, not a lawyer, an ophthalmologist. Just like Bashir al Assad. I have often discussed the toxic effects of the law education. I am not discussing the stunning effects of the medical education. But, it removes all inhibitions against opening the body, and rummaging around.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 18, 2013 7:08:18 AM

SC - You're correct. Most surgeons are fearless and prepared to vigorously defend their decisions.

Posted by: beth | Sep 18, 2013 12:08:59 PM

Congress has dictated Mandatory Minimums for offenses related to child pornography. Congressman Feeney snuck in drastic hard changes, by attaching it to a popular bill, with 20 minutes of debate. He tried to get it through before, but he had too much opposition. He later admitted it was written and pushed by 2 government officials. Congress has stuck its nose into child porn punishments so poorly that someone like my nephew triggers enough enhancements, the US Attorney told us he would go the federal penitentiary for over 100 years, but 100 was the max. OR he could take her deal of "only" 20 years. I've been researching ever since. I had no idea how out of whack Congress has made child porn punishments. I hate the thought of child porn, but when some old man can lure a minor on line, rape her several times, gets less time in jail than someone like my 20 year old nephew sitting in his room downloading porn gets a much longer sentence??? Rand Paul - you have my vote, and everyone in my family and circle of friends. NO to Mandatory Minimums.

Posted by: Rebecca | Sep 22, 2013 10:41:32 PM

Just a regular guy,I see no issue with restoring gun rights for all non violent felons it should have been done a long time ago,I myself was convicted of non violent felonies 29 yrs ago did my sentence and have been paying for it my entire life,along with my families life since they can't own a gun either unless I move out of house.I have been in no kind of trouble,I am raising a family and can't even protect them and teach my son to hunt.let me remind you a felony can be as easy to get as pushing a pencilthe wrong way,so no a felon shouldn't pay for it his entire life,Its really hard to find work these days with anything on your record.

Posted by: leslie roberts | Jan 8, 2014 8:53:11 PM

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