Monday, February 11, 2013
Talk in Chicago of increasing mandatory minimum sentences for gun possessionAs reported in this new local article from Chicago, that city's "mayor, cops and prosecutors are taking aim at Illinois’ gun possession laws — calling for longer mandatory prison terms and 'truth in sentencing'." Here are some of the details of the proposal and the sentencing debate is has started to engender:
Their wish list includes boosting the minimum required sentence for people convicted of gun possession from one year in prison to three years. They hope to increase the minimum sentence for felons caught with guns from two years to three years.
They also want everyone convicted of felony gun possession to be required to serve 85 percent of their sentences. Now those inmates must complete only half their terms — and sometimes much less after earning “good time” in prison.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said the proposed reforms would deter more people from carrying guns illegally and would help curb violence. “The guys who are doing the shootings would be away from the corners for a longer time,” Alvarez said in an interview.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose office drafted the legislative proposals, is expected to announce them Monday with Alvarez and other officials. “Criminals continue to escape with minor sentences for possessing and using firearms,” Emanuel said in a prepared statement.
For months, police Supt. Garry McCarthy has proposed lengthening the mandatory sentence for gun possession to three years, pointing to New York City, where he was once a high-ranking cop. The state of New York passed a 3½-year mandatory minimum sentence for illegal gun possession in 2007. The following year, NFL star Plaxico Burress was arrested after a handgun he was carrying accidentally discharged and shot him.
Burress pleaded guilty to a lesser offense and was hit with a two-year jail term, drawing national attention to New York City as a place that cracks down on illegal gun possession. Criminologists point to the mandatory gun sentence in New York as one of the reasons for the Big Apple’s continuing decline in violent crime.
Chicago — whose murder tally rose 16 percent to 506 last year — has about three times as many murders per capita as New York. Also, about 85 percent of murders in Chicago involve a gun, compared to about 60 percent in New York.
While the cops and prosecutors in charge of locking up criminals support lengthier sentences, one judge said the General Assembly — and the public — need to think hard before making the gun laws harsher. “As a taxpayer of this state, I would hope the legislators are cognizant that creating mandatory minimum sentences creates a financial consequence to the state,” said Cook County Judge Nicholas Ford. “A lot of judges bristle at mandatory minimum sentences. It’s not my position to question it. It’s my job to enforce whatever the legislature forwards me.
“But for a person who’s never been convicted of a felony, for a person who’s never committed a violent crime, for a taxpayer who’s never had any problems with the law, I wonder about that,” Ford said.
Alvarez responded that few people without criminal backgrounds are charged with felony gun possession in Cook County. “You will see that once in a while, but that is when our discretion [as prosecutors] comes into play in charging and in looking at cases once they’re in the system,” she said.
Supporters of mandatory minimum sentences say they also provide a predictable outcome. Indeed, a Chicago Sun-Times examination found wide disparities in how often Cook County judges put people behind bars for gun possession before mandatory minimum sentences fully took effect in early 2011.
Ford, for example, sentenced 42 defendants for gun possession and sent about 76 percent to prison. About 21 percent received probation and 2 percent went to boot camp. The length of his average prison sentence was almost two and a half years. Judge Michael Brown, meanwhile, sentenced 45 defendants. About half went to prison, 23 percent received community service, 18 percent probation and 5 percent boot camp. But the length of his average prison sentence was more than three years.
Overall, Cook County judges sent nearly three-quarters of such defendants to prison for an average sentence of almost two and a half years. About 14 percent got probation, 6 percent boot camp and 4 percent community service. The newspaper studied 2011 sentencing outcomes in felony gun possession cases that didn’t include other types of crimes.
Many of those cases involved 2010 arrests, which didn’t apply to the mandatory minimum sentences that took effect in 2011. A separate law that took effect in late 2009 requires a minimum sentence of three years for gang members convicted of carrying a loaded gun.
The Sun-Times analysis found that judges sometimes sentenced defendants to Cook County boot camp — a four-month program with eight additional months of strict supervision. Ford called boot camp a “really solid disposition” for younger defendants without a felony record or violent background.
But Alvarez said she doesn’t think judges should have the option to sentence such defendants to boot camp. “It’s not ‘pen’ time,” she said. “I think the law is clear that they should not be giving boot camp, but judges see it a different way.”
Alvarez said she’s considering discussing the matter with Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans and “seeing if there’s something we need to change legislatively — or litigate it.” As Alvarez and other politicians pursue tougher gun laws, one man convicted of illegal gun possession surprisingly said they’re right.
Matthew Munoz, 24, was arrested in 2011 after he and his pals got into a squabble with rival gang members on the South Side.... Munoz was eligible for probation because his crime happened in 2010, before the one-year mandatory minimum took effect. He was sentenced to two years’ probation, but after one year he messed up when he tried to foil a drug test.
Munoz was sent to prison. But because he got credit for time he spent in the Cook County Jail, he said he spent only one day at Stateville Correctional Center. “It’s called ‘dress in and dress out,’ ” he said.
Munoz is now on parole, which he vows to complete successfully. He plans to go to school and get a job. “Some people need prison to learn their lesson,” Munoz said. “I wish I got sent to prison a long time ago. I kept getting probation for this and that. . . . Chicago is getting out of control with the gang violence. They should send those guys to prison — even guys like me.”
As serious sentencing fans know well, and as this article helps highlight, mandatory minimum sentencing laws do not really mandate prison for all offenders. Rather, they mostly serve to transfer the discretion as to which offenders go to prison from judges to prosecutors.
If there is good research indicating that this transfer of discretion in the gun crime settings help to reduce illegal gun use and gun violence, I can understand why folks in Chicago and elsewhere think increased mandatory minimums should be a needed response to gun crimes and gun violence. But, as lots of research and experience reveals in the federal system and elsewhere, having prosecutors as exercising the most sentencing discretion via mandatory minimums tends to increase sentencing disparities, not ensure that similar defendants always receive similar sentences.
Recent and older related posts:
- Sentencing "highlights" in President Obama's new gun control push
- Is there really a simple explanation for record-low homicide rate in NYC (or the increase in Chicago)?
- More proof mandatory sentencing laws are never really mandatory and can enhance disparities
- "Empirical evidence suggests a sure fire way to dramatically lower gun homicides: repeal drug laws"
- Fascinating federal "gun control" criminal charges in wake of NY ambush murder-suicide
- Does the last decade add support for "more guns, less crime" claims?
- What do folks think of a local "violence tax" on guns and ammunition?
February 11, 2013 in Gun policy and sentencing, Mandatory minimum sentencing statutes, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Second Amendment issues, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack
Friday, February 08, 2013
"What the Gun Lobby and the Marijuana Lobby Have in Common"The title of this post is the headline of this new commentary by Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic. It gets started this way:
Last week, I took a glancing look at some of the most dubious gun measures creeping up from state legislatures all over the country since the beginning of the year. The statutory text may differ from state to state, but the theme of those post-Newtown proposals are essentially the same: Under the banner of federalism, expressing alarm at federal power, earnest lawmakers are seeking to use new state laws to prevent law enforcement officials from enforcing existing (and future) federal gun regulations.
At the same time, also in the last five weeks, lawmakers in at least 18 states -- more than one-third of the nation -- have proposed dozens of new marijuana laws that would dramatically alter the way millions of people interact with pot. Again, the details differ from bill to bill. But, again, the underlying theme is familiar: Under the banner of federalism, expressing disdain with federal power, earnest lawmakers are seeking through these measures to erode the scope of federal law, which still classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug that is illegal to sell or possess.
The new generation of gun laws, which run directly counter to national public opinion, is rooted in the fealty of state lawmakers to the 10th Amendment, to the 2nd Amendment, to gun industry lobbyists and to its tribune, the National Rifle Association. And these measures, if passed, would be patently unconstitutional. You can amend or repeal a federal statute, in other words, including of course a federal gun regulation, but as a state lawmaker you cannot seek to punish federal officials who are trying to enforce it.
On the other hand, the new generation of marijuana laws, which represent growing national support for reasonable reform, is a direct result of the stunning election success last November of two legalization measures in Colorado and in Washington. These measures, too, on their face, violate federal marijuana law. And, ultimately, either the federal law will have to change, or these state laws will have to change. That change isn't likely to come first from the courts. It's going to have to come from lawmakers, from Congress, and the White House.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Sentencing "highlights" in President Obama's new gun control pushThanks to this helpful piece from the New York Times, which is headlined "What’s in Obama’s Gun Control Proposal," I see that at least a few of the latest idea on gun control coming from the White House involve sentencing matters. Via the list provided by the Times, here is a partial account of the provisions likely to be of greatest interest to sentencing fans:
Proposed Congressional Actions
• Requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales, including those by private sellers that currently are exempt.
• Reinstating and strengthening the ban on assault weapons that was in place from 1994 to 2004....
• Increasing criminal penalties for "straw purchasers," people who pass the required background check to buy a gun on behalf of someone else.
• Acting on a $4 billion administration proposal to help keep 15,000 police officers on the street....
• Directing the attorney general to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks....
• Issuing a presidential memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
• Releasing a report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and making it widely available to law enforcement authorities.
• Maximizing enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
• Issuing a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence.
• Directing the attorney general to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenging the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
As regular readers know, the last listed item here is of particular interest to me because I continue to want to believe that smart gun technologies may be a much more effective and efficient means to reduce gun violence than lots of new prohibitions or increased sentences and other costly criminal justice investments.
Prior related posts following Newton masacre:
- Could latest tragic mass shooting prompt renewed consideration of "smart gun" technologies?
- "Smart Gun Technology Could Have Blocked Adam Lanza"
- "Empirical evidence suggests a sure fire way to dramatically lower gun homicides: repeal drug laws"
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Fascinating federal "gun control" criminal charges in wake of NY ambush murder-suicideThis AP story, headlined "New York woman arrested in connection with murder of 2 firefighters," discusses the federal criminal law follow-up to the depressing ambush murder-suicide that took place in upstate New York earlier this week (discussed here). Here are some details:
William Spengler raised no alarms in prison for 17 years and for more than a decade afterward. Well-spoken, well-behaved and intelligent, his demeanor was praised by four straight parole boards that nevertheless denied him parole, worried that bludgeoning his 92-year-old grandmother with a hammer showed a violent streak that could explode again.
After his sentence was up in 1996, he stayed out of trouble until 2010, police said Friday. That's when Spengler went to a sporting goods store with a neighbor's daughter, picked out a Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle and a shotgun and had her buy the guns that the convicted felon couldn't legally possess. On Monday, he used the weapons to ambush firefighters lured to a blaze he set at his house in upstate Webster, killing two people and wounding three others before killing himself.
On Friday, state and federal authorities charged the woman who bought the guns, 24-year-old Dawn Nguyen, with lying on a form that said she would be the owner of the guns she bought for Spengler. The charges involve the semiautomatic rifle and the 12-gauge shotgun that Spengler had with him Monday when volunteer firefighters Michael Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka were gunned down. Three other people, including two other firefighters, were wounded before the 62-year-old Spengler killed himself. He also had a .38-caliber revolver, but Nguyen is not connected to that gun, police said....
U.S. Attorney William Hochul said Nguyen bought the two guns on June 6, 2010, on behalf of Spengler. Police used the serial numbers on the guns to trace them to Nguyen. "She told the seller of these guns, Gander Mountain in Henrietta, N.Y., that she was to be the true owner and buyer of the guns instead of William Spengler," Hochul said. "It is absolutely against federal law to provide any materially false information related to the acquisition of firearms."
During an interview late on Christmas Eve, she told police she had bought the guns for personal protection and that they were stolen from her vehicle, though she never reported the guns stolen. The day after the shootings, Nguyen texted an off-duty Monroe County Sheriff's deputy with references to the killings. She later called the deputy and admitted she bought the guns for Spengler, police said Friday....
As police announced the charges against Nguyen, a clearer portrait of Spengler began to emerge, in the words of wary parole commissioners who kept him locked up until the law said they had to let him go. At his final parole hearing in 1995, the then-45-year-old Spengler repeated his desire to get out of prison while he still had time to rebuild his life. He also took issue with a previous decision not to release him because the board believed he remained a danger to society....
During four hearings between 1989 and 1995, Spengler quarreled with parole board members over details of his grandmother's killing, insisting each time he'd only hit her three times on the head with a hammer while evidence pointed to 13 blows, and initially saying he couldn't explain why the attack happened....
The transcripts reveal a well-spoken man, proud to be staying out of trouble in prison and earning positions of trust and responsibility, even time out of prison with a work crew that did renovation work in places including a century-old chapel. The board members mention Spengler testing high for intelligence and noted he came to prison with no other crimes on his record, had only dabbled in drug use and had a spotty work history, mostly as a house painter....
"So why do you think you killed her?" Spengler was asked in 1989. "I still haven't figured that out. It was matter of just wanting to get out. She was between me and the door," he replied.
"She was just a little, bitty old lady," a board member commented. "I realize that. That's why I still can't explain it," Spengler said.
This gun-buying back-story and the federal criminal charges facing Dawn Nguyen raise so many issues concerning not only the challenges of gun control, but ultimately sentencing purposes, policies and practices. Federal law imposes serious penalties on any felons possessing any guns — a prohibition which itself seems suspect if the Second Amendment's protection of self-defense rights is to be viewed as a serious natural/constitutional right for all persons — but this case highlights how easily even this widely accepted form of gun control can be evaded. Sophisticated "smart gun" technology (recently discussed here and here) might help on this front by ensuring only legal/registered buyers can operate the gun, but even a "Lojack-style" gun operation technology would have difficulty prevent "neighborly friends" like Dawn Nguyen from aiding prohibited persons like William Spengler from getting access to firearms.
Speaking of Spengler and Nguyen, I continue to focus on the reality that Spengler apparently served over 17 years as a seemingly changed person in prison and was successful on parole for another decade thereafter. It seems possible that Dawn Nguyen did not know Spengler was a convicted killer when he asked for help getting firearms; even if she did, Spengler likely convinced her that his criminal past was way in the past. Moreover, Spengler apparently possessed the guns bought by Nguyen for him for over two years without incident (and another gun, for that matter) before Spengler snapped and turned (back?) into a homicidal evil killer.
Given that it appears Nguyen is ready to admit commiting a federal "gun control" crime, her involvement in this tragic event is now full of challenging federal sentencing issues. I seriously doubt that Nguyen even considered the prospect of Spengler would commit a serious crime with the guns she bought for him, let alone multiple murders. Should she still be held criminally responsible at sentencing for the horrific harms caused by the guns she bought based on a lie? Should the many victims of Spengler's crimes get to be involved in her prosecution and eventual sentencing? Especially if and when a plea deal is considered by the involved attorneys, is there a particular sentence or sentencing range that is obviously too lenient or too harsh for Nguyen "gun control" crime? (Bill Otis spotlights some of these issues in this new post at Crime & Consequences titled "Should We Criminally Punish Non-Violent, Regulatory Offenses?".)
A few recent related posts:
- Could latest tragic mass shooting prompt renewed consideration of "smart gun" technologies?
- "Smart Gun Technology Could Have Blocked Adam Lanza"
- "Empirical evidence suggests a sure fire way to dramatically lower gun homicides: repeal drug laws"
- Appreciating blessings — and the limits of laws — this (too violent) holiday season
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
"Smart Gun Technology Could Have Blocked Adam Lanza"The title of this post is the headline of this new Huffington Post commentary by David Shuster, which I view as a long-needed and welcome example of a new kind of discourse over gun control needed in the wake of the Newtown massacre. Here are excerpts:
As our leaders begin the uncertain political debate over gun control, there is a simple and straightforward policy solution right now that would uphold gun owners' 2nd amendment rights and still keep our kids safer. It's called "smart gun technology."
The system is similar to "smart technology" already in use for things like cars, iPhones and security doors. A computer microchip measures the bio-metric details of the person attempting to activate the product. If the details match the rightful owner, the device is "enabled." If the details don't match, the device will not work or open.
The most reliable smart gun technology involves a grip recognition system. There are 16 digital sensor chips embedded in the handle. The computerized sensors capture the unique pattern and pressure of your grip, plus the specific size of your hand. If someone else tries to use the gun, the information will not match the stored pattern of the gun owner's — and the weapon will not fire....
[T]his technology, as well as similar versions involving fingerprint recognition, could be embedded in guns today. But for years, the National Rifle Association has blocked these efforts, in part because they would make guns costlier to produce and purchase. The NRA has also insisted that smart gun technology would infringe upon the Second Amendment. Constitutional experts say that argument is absurd. The Constitution allows for all kinds of product regulations....
The best argument against smart gun technology is a logistical one. It could prevent a homeowner who wrestles away an intruder's gun from firing it back at them. I think we can agree, however, that such MacGyver-like situations are exceedingly rare. And the fact is, 10 to 15 percent of guns used in home invasions, robberies and mass shootings are weapons that have been stolen.
Furthermore, smart gun technology allows for multiple biometric "identities" to be stored in one gun. This would solve a problem for police or members of the military who may want to have the option of "sharing weapons."
In the case of the Connecticut massacre, is it possible that Adam Lanza's mother, a gun enthusiast who reportedly took her sons to the range, would have embedded Adam's biometric data on her weapons if that was possible? Sure. But family baby sitters have told reporters that Nancy Lanza repeatedly urged "caution" around Adam and was worried about his behavioral problems....
The weapons Adam Lanza relied on were not his. They belonged to his mother, the only person entitled to use them. And while she may have taught her son how to fire the weapons at shooting ranges over the years, she was the sole owner of the weapons, not him. If smart technology had been in place, the weapons would have likely been useless to Adam Lanza.
And that's the point. Congress and the President should begin their new effort at preventing mass shootings by mandating something that might have made a different in Newtown, Conn. — require smart gun technology in all weapons. Just as our nation insists on basic quality standards for cars, houses, tools, air, water, and etc, insisting on basic features for all weapons that may be "fired" is perfectly reasonable.
It's not about taking guns away. It's about making sure that guns can't be fired by anybody but their lawful owners. Is that too much to ask?
As long-time readers know, I have been talking up smart-gun technology on this blog for years (examples here and here), and I have been sincerely hoping that the horrific shooting in Connecticut will start generating new and needed buzz on this encouraging front. This Huff Post commentary is a good start, and I sure hope the new leadership and initiatives coming from President Obama and VP Biden (basics here from the AP) will be focused like a laser on the potential pros and cons of smart guns.
Prior posts both old and new:
- Technology, smart guns, GPS tracking and a better Second Amendment
- More on smart guns, dumb technologies and market realities
- Could latest tragic mass shooting prompt renewed consideration of "smart gun" technologies?
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Could latest tragic mass shooting prompt renewed consideration of "smart gun" technologies?
Like so many others, I have been struggling to come to terms with the largely incomprehensible and horrifically tragic mass murder in Connecticut on Friday. And the struggle has not been especially aided by another round of the same old debates over the politics and practicalities of gun control and over the so-called "gun culture" in the United States. But a helpful reader reminded me of my posts nearly five years ago here and here about the prospect of smart-gun technologies being a possible frontier for a better gun control discourse.
Because I am not well-versed on gun manufacturing or the modern devises that now control and monitor smart phones and smart cars, I still cannot readily discuss what kind of engineering might have allowed Adam Lanza's mother to buy all the guns she wanted without making it so easy for her son to murder her and so many innocent teachers and children with her guns. But I have an inkling that most (all?) legal gun purchasers — and surely all law enforcement agencies — would love to have guns that, through some sort of advanced technological means, would become disabled if pointed toward the authorized owner and/or would not function in certain regions and/or would not fire more than a single shot without a special user code.
Rather than go on and on as I did years ago concerning the seeming value (and failure of) advancing smart-gun technologies with the help of modern GPS tracking, I will close here by linking to my old posts on this topic and by encouraging readers to supply links to any new (or old) discussions of new gun technologies.
Prior posts from way back in February 2008:
- Technology, smart guns, GPS tracking and a better Second Amendment
- More on smart guns, dumb technologies and market realitie
UPDATE: For clarity, I wanted to add that I fully recognize that smart-gun technologies would surely not eliminate all (or even most) gun crimes or harmful/illegal uses of firearms. But I do think advanced gun technology could and should reduce misuse and harms, just as smart car and related safety technologies have reduced the number and severity of car accidents.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Does the last decade add support for "more guns, less crime" claims?The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new USA Today story, which is headlined "Federal gun checks surge as violent crime ebbs." Here is how the piece starts:
The number of federally required background checks of prospective gun purchasers has nearly doubled in the past decade — a time when violent crime has been in long decline in many places across the USA, according to FBI records.
The bureau's National Instant Check System (NICS) does not track actual firearms sales — multiple guns can be included in one purchase. But the steady rise in background checks — from 8.5 million in 2002 to 16.8 million in 2012 — tracks other indicators that signal escalating gun sales.
Advocates on both sides of the gun-rights debate disagree over what is driving the trend. Gun-rights groups attribute the steady increase to the growing popularity of hunting and other gun-recreation uses, the impact of state laws allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns and concerns that the Obama administration will push for laws restricting weapons purchases.
Gun-control advocates, led by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, say existing gun owners are responsible for most new purchases (about 20% of gun owners possess 65% of the nation's guns, according to a 2006 Harvard study). Brady Campaign President Dan Gross said concerns about new gun-control laws are part of a "marketing ploy" to keep firearms moving.
No gun-control legislation was passed in President Obama's first term and no major proposal was offered during the 2012 presidential election campaign. Still, there is an "expectation" that new gun-control proposals will surface in Obama's second term, said National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. "People expect a siege on the Second Amendment (right to bear arms).''
Larry Keane, senior vice president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said gun-related recreation — from hunting to target shooting on the range — is growing, too. From 2006 through 2011, spending on hunting equipment grew by nearly 30%, according to a national survey published in August by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Keane said the overall firearms industry has thrived despite the sputtering economy and the decline in violent crime. "Personal safety still is a big reason people purchase firearms," Keane said. "The economic downturn, I think, raised fears that crime would eventually go back up."
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Split Seventh Circuit panel extended Second Amendment rights to outside homeI have not blogged much of late on Second Amendment jurisprudence, in part because it seems all lower courts have no qualms about saying the the purported "fundamental right" to "keep and bear arms" recognized by the Supreme Court in Heller and McDonald has no application whatsoever to non-violent felons or certain misdemeanants. Still, a big Second Amendment ruling today from a Seventh Circuit panel in Moore v. Madigan, No. 12-1269 (7th Cir. Dec. 11, 2012) (available here), struck me as blog-worthy. Here is the close of the majority opinion (per Judge Posner):
We are disinclined to engage in another round of historical analysis to determine whether eighteenth-century America understood the Second Amendment to include a right to bear guns outside the home. The Supreme Court has decided that the amendment confers a right to bear arms for self-defense, which is as important outside the home as inside. The theoretical and empirical evidence (which overall is inconclusive) is consistent with concluding that a right to carry firearms in public may promote self-defense. Illinois had to provide us with more than merely a rational basis for believing that its uniquely sweeping ban is justified by an increase in public safety. It has failed to meet this burden. The Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment therefore compels us to reverse the decisions in the two cases before us and remand them to their respective district courts for the entry of declarations of unconstitutionality and permanent injunctions. Nevertheless we order our mandate stayed for 180 days to allow the Illinois legislature to craft a new gun law that will impose reasonable limitations, consistent with the public safety and the Second Amendment as interpreted in this opinion, on the carrying of guns in public.
Tuesday, October 09, 2012
What do folks think of a local "violence tax" on guns and ammunition?The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new local article out of Chicago, headlined "Cook County Considers 'Violence Tax'." Here are the interesting details:
A potential Cook County tax takes aim at guns, and gun rights activists aren't happy about it.
County president Toni Preckwinkle is considering a "violence tax" on guns and ammunition to help plug a $115 million budget gap in 2013. Under the tax, guns and ammunition would cost more, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, but Preckwinkle isn't saying how much more just yet.
The idea follows a violent Chicago summer, when some weekends left multiple people killed and dozens others injured in shootings. The city's murder rate is up 25 percent, and the Cook County Jail is near capacity with 9,000-plus inmates....
The idea raises questions about how much this would raise for the county and whether the tax would really cut down on crime.
"If we can tax cigarettes, it seems we can tax bullets and guns," said Chicago resident Cathryn Taylor. "But at the same time, I get the point that if people are buying the stuff illegally, then the tax doesn't matter because they aren't going through legal channels anyway."
The idea has come up before. Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) pushed for a 10-cent per-bullet tax back in 2007 when he was Cook County board commissioner. That didn't happen....
Preckwinkle's budget proposal is set to be unveiled Oct. 18, and an ammunition tax isn't the only potential money maker on the table. The board president reportedly wants to lease the top two floors of the County Building in Chicago's Loop for what she estimates could net at least $1 million a year for 10 years.
In response to this story, I cannot help but think about Chris Rock's great riff on gun control and "bullet control" in which he explains just why the world would be so much better if each bullet cost $5,000.
Sunday, September 09, 2012
"Decisional Minimalism and the Judicial Evaluation of Gun Regulations"The title of this post is the title of this intriguing looking new piece by Professor Richard Boldt now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
In District of Columbia v. Heller, a sharply divided United States Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects “the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.” Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, made clear that the Court’s recognition of this right, which it found inconsistent with the District of Columbia’s restriction on the possession of handguns in the home, did not mean that persons have “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” The Court chose not to delineate “the full scope of the Second Amendment,” and also “declin[ed] to establish a level of scrutiny for evaluating Second Amendment restrictions.” The majority opinion in Heller is significant both for the constitutional right it established and for the questions of scope and operation associated with that right that it left unresolved. Justice Scalia’s choice to write this “narrow” opinion has “unleashed a flood of litigation” in the lower courts, as litigants and judges have confronted the uncertainty purposely left by the Supreme Court majority.
Woollard v. Sheridan, a test case brought in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland by Raymond Woollard and the Second Amendment Foundation, is one of many such cases to be presented in recent months. While Justice Scalia’s Heller decision relies on familiar conservative interpretive methods, including a hard-edged textual analysis and a heavy dose of originalism, in order to find a “core” right of individual citizens to possess guns in their homes for self defense, his further choice to avoid resolving significant questions of scope and operation reflects a different form of conservative constitutional jurisprudence, which professor Cass Sunstein has termed “Burkean minimalism.” To the extent that the Supreme Court embraced Burkean minimalism in Heller, the tradition of balanced handgun regulation in the states generally, and the more particular regulatory practice in Maryland, ought to count significantly in both the determination of the scope of the right and in its operation. The exercise of judicial review under these circumstances should be characterized by a deferential stance toward the sensitive public policy judgments reached decades ago and maintained over the years by officials in the legislative and executive branches of state government. Many lower courts confronting these issues have explicitly or implicitly recognized the essentially conservative nature of this developing jurisprudence, its Burkean incrementalism. The District Court in Woollard chose a more aggressive path, and in that respect misread the important cautionary signals that the Supreme Court majority has provided.
Monday, July 30, 2012
Notable comments from Justice Scalia on the Second and Eighth Amendments
Justice Scalia is making the rounds as part of a book promotion tour, and on Sunday he appeared on the "Fox News Sunday" program. This Reuters article about the appearance reports on some of his comments about two Amendments that are often of special interest to sentencing fans. Here are excerpts:
In light of the July 20 massacre in which a gunman killed 12 moviegoers in Colorado, Scalia was asked whether legislatures could ban the sale of semiautomatic weapons. He said the 2008 [Heller] ruling stated that future cases will determine "what limitations upon the right to bear arms are permissible. Some undoubtedly are."
Scalia -- a proponent of the idea that the Constitution must be interpreted using the meaning of its text at the time it was written -- cited "a tort called affrighting" that existed when the Second Amendment was drafted in the 18th century making it a misdemeanor to carry "a really horrible weapon just to scare people like a head ax."
"So yes, there are some limitations that can be imposed," he said. "I mean, obviously, the amendment does not apply to arms that cannot be hand-carried. It's to 'keep and bear' (arms). So, it doesn't apply to cannons. But I suppose there are handheld rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes that will have to be ... decided."
Regarding the death penalty, Scalia said opponents want it struck under the ban on cruel and unusual punishment included in the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. "But it's absolutely clear that the American people never voted to proscribe the death penalty," he said. "They adopted a cruel and unusual punishment clause at the time when every state had the death penalty and every state continued to have it. Nobody thought that the Eighth Amendment prohibited it."
Friday, June 01, 2012
Second Circuit rejects Second Amendment attack on federal firearm possession statute
Thanks to a very helpful reader, I see that the Second Circuit has a notable new Second Amendment opinion in US v. Decastro, No. 10-3773 (2d Cir. June 1, 2012) (available here). Here is how the majority opinion (per Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs) gets started:
Following a bench trial on stipulated facts in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Patterson, J.), Angel Decastro was convicted of transporting into his state of residence a firearm acquired in another state in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(3). Decastro appeals on the ground that § 922(a)(3) violates his Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. He argues:  that § 922(a)(3) is unconstitutional on its face; and  that, in combination with New York’s licensing scheme, the prohibition on the transportation into New York of a firearm purchased in another state made it virtually impossible for him to obtain a handgun for self-defense. For the following reasons, the judgment of the district court is affirmed.
Judge Hall concurs in a separate opinion in order to "enunciate how [he] reach[es] the determination that § 922(a)(3) does not impose a substantial burden on the exercise of Decastro’s Second Amendment right."
Until I have a chance to review this opinion more thoroughly, I cannot predict with confidence how strong supports of broad and potent Second Amendment rights might react to this ruling. But I can already predict that NYC Mayor Bloomberg, a very strong advocate of very strong gun control, is certain to be very pleased with this opinion (unless Chief Judge Jacobs happened to hand the opinion down in Manhattan while drinking a Big Gulp of Mountain Dew).
Monday, May 07, 2012
Fascinating discussion of Second Amendment in Tenth Circuit's affirmance of alien-in-possession conviction
The Tenth Circuit handed down a really interesting opinion this afternoon in the course of rejecting a set of constitutional attacks on 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(5)(A), which prohibits illegal aliens from possessing firearms. As explained at the start of the opinion in US v. Huitron-Guizar, No. 11-8051 (11th Cir. May 7, 2012) (available here), the defendant in this case moved "to dismiss the indictment on grounds that § 922(g)(5) unconstitutionally abridges the right to bear arms as interpreted in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), and violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause (which applies to the federal government through the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause)." Here are some of the many interesting passages from the Tenth Circuit 's discussion:
The right to bear arms, however venerable, is qualified by what one might call the “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” and “why.”...
Our issue concerns the “who.” Section 922(g), a part of the amended Gun Control Act of 1968, forbids gun possession by nine classes of individuals: felons, fugitives, addicts or users of controlled substances, the mentally ill, illegal and non-immigrant aliens, the dishonorably discharged, renouncers of their citizenship, those subject to court orders for harassing, stalking, or threatening intimate partners or their children, and those convicted for misdemeanor domestic violence. No Second Amendment challenge since Heller to any of these provisions has succeeded....
Mr. Huitron-Guizar agrees that those guilty of serious crimes and the mentally ill are sensibly stripped of firearms they might otherwise lawfully keep. Yet he wonders what it is about aliens that permits Congress to impose what he considers a similar disability?...
The [Supreme] Court [in a 1990 Fourth Amendment ruling] seemed unwilling to say that illegal aliens, who reside here voluntarily and who accept some social obligations, have no rights the government is bound to respect when, say, they protest a raid or detention. Instead, Verdugo-Urquidez teaches that “People” is a word of broader content than “citizens,” and of narrower content than “persons.”...
How, historically, has this country regulated weapon possession by foreigners? Are we to understand gun ownership as among the private rights not generally denied aliens, like printing newspapers or tending a farm, or one of the rights tied to self-government, like voting and jury service, largely limited to citizens?...
We think we can avoid the constitutional question by assuming, for purposes of this case, that the Second Amendment, as a “right of the people,” could very well include, in the absence of a statute restricting such a right, at least some aliens unlawfully here — and still easily find § 922(g)(5) constitutional.
Among the many joys that come from reading all of the Tenth Circuit's work in this case is to see how quickly the panel dispatches a very original (and very unlikely to succeed) effort to spin a political controversy into an argument for a reduced sentence: "Finally, the argument that a departure or variance was in order based on governmental conduct is meritless. The attempt to connect, in a vague, freewheeling way, the gun possession at issue here with the Fast and Furious Operation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is not persuasive."
Friday, April 13, 2012
A justifiably(?) long prison term for exteme child-care stupidity
It is really hard to have any sympathy for really mean people who hurt children, but this local sentencing story from Illinois, headlined "Rockford man gets 12 years for burning child with iron," leads me to wonder whether we ought to have perhaps a little sympathy for really stupid people who hurt children. Here are the details:
A man who ironed a shirt while it was on the back of an 18-month-old girl pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated battery to a child and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Elliott Moore, 43, of Rockford was sentenced by Judge Rosemary Collins, Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato announced today.
On Feb. 5, 2010, Rockford police officers were sent to Rockford Memorial Hospital to take a report of aggravated battery to a child. Officers learned that the child had a large, open burn mark in the middle of the back.
The child’s mother reported Moore was her live-in care provider who watched her children while she was at school. The mother said on Feb. 4, 2010, she returned home and found Moore standing in the parking lot holding a bag of his clothes, stating he had to go to work. She said he was very agitated and that she knew he did not need to be at work for quite some time. That evening, the mother indicated her daughter was up all night crying. When she changed the child’s clothing, she noticed a large, open burn on her back, Bruscato said.
During an interview with detectives, Moore said he was watching the child and a sibling and was having difficulty ironing because the child was on his lap. He said that he placed one of his work shirts on the child’s back and ironed. The defendant said the child woke up crying, and he saw that he had burned her back. He said he then put cold water on her back and put the child in a sleeper....
Aggravated battery to a child is a Class 2 felony with a sentencing range of three to seven years in prison. Because of the victim’s age, Moore was eligible for an extended term — a range of three to 14 years in prison.
Perhaps I am naive to take at face value the defendant's account of how he burned this toddler, and perhaps deep evil (rather than deep stupidity) is involved here and justifies a decade+ in a cage for this crime. Still, if the poor child ultimately has no enduring harms and if the defendant truly was just guilty of being huge idiot, I wonder if anyone else questions whether the judge here really needed to nearly max-out the defendant's sentence.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Is California's prison population reduction going as well as it seems?
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this local article headlined "California prisons clearing out." Here are excerpts:
Images of California's overcrowded prisons are so striking that the U.S. Supreme Court included two photographs of the problem in last year's landmark opinion that forced the state to address the issue.
On Friday, state corrections leaders will announce they have made an important step toward their goal to ease overcrowding, finally getting rid of the last of thousands of bunks that were crammed into day rooms, gymnasiums and other spaces to hold inmates.
In a news conference scheduled to be held at the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, corrections chief Matthew Cate and other officials are scheduled to announce the end of what the department itself calls "iconic images of (the) overcrowding crisis."...
The use of what the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation calls "nontraditional beds" peaked at just under 20,000 in 2007, Callison said. Their use stemmed from the prison system at one point holding twice as many inmates as the 80,000 it was designed to house. "The degree of overcrowding in California's prisons is exceptional ..." the Supreme Court concluded in its May 2011 opinion, which described in graphic detail how officials found room to house them....
Following the court's order that the state reduce its prison population by 33,000 inmates to bring it to 137.5 percent of capacity, state officials went to work. Gov. Jerry Brown's "realignment" plan, which shifts responsibility for some offenders considered low-level, nonviolent and nonserious to county jails, has since helped cut the prison population from about 144,000 inmates to about 127,770.
"The number of nontraditional beds had been falling since '07, but realignment has basically taken us over the finish line," Callison said. The department hopes to reduce overall population to 137.5 percent of capacity -- about 110,000 inmates -- by June 2013.
It is surely way too early to reach a final judgment (or even a mid-stream judgment) about whether the Plata prison overcrowding litigation and California's prison-population-reduction responses has proven to be a great public policy success. But I continue to see in the California papers positive stories like the one reported here, while I am yet to see many stories reflecting the parade of horribles sometimes described by those who opposed the various prison reduction orders during the Plata litigation. Thus the question in the title of this post.
Friday, February 24, 2012
"Second Amendment Penumbras: Some Preliminary Observations"
The title of this post is the title of this new short paper by Glenn Harlan Reynolds, which is now available via SSRN and has this on-sentence abstract: "With the Second Amendment now a working part of the Bill Of Rights in the wake of the Supreme Court's decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, this brief Essay examines the likely extent of penumbral rights under the Second Amendment, as well as the possible effect on unenumerated rights in general of an enforceable right to arms."
A quick review of the draft leads me to conclude that Professor Reynolds sees, as do I, how the Second Amendment could now have a potentially profound impact on the application of some criminal gun laws. Consider, for example, this interesting passage from the article:
First Amendment analogies, in fact, suggest another doctrine that might apply: chilling effect. Traditionally, violation of gun laws was treated as mere malum prohibitum, and penalties for violations were generally light. During our nation’s interlude of hostility toward guns in the latter half of the twentieth century, penalties for violations of gun laws, especially in states with generally anti-gun philosophies, became much stiffer. Gun ownership was treated as a suspect (or perhaps “deviant” is a better word) act — one to be engaged in, if at all, at the actor’s peril.
But with gun ownership now recognized as an important constitutional right belonging to all Americans, that deviant characterization cannot be correct. Regulation of firearms cannot now justifiably proceed on an in terrorem approach, in which the underlying goal is to discourage people from having anything to do with firearms at all. Laws treating fairly minor or technical violations as felonies must be regarded with the same sort of suspicion as pre–New York Times v. Sullivan laws on criminal libel: as improper burdens on the exercise of a constitutional right.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Doesn't Heller and McDonald impact old precedents concerning federal FIP crimes?
The question in the title of this post is prompted an interesting (and I think incorrect) ruling today by a Tenth Circuit panel in US v. Games-Perez, No. 11-1011 (10th Cir. Jan. 23, 2012) (available here). The issue and basics of the ruling are explained in the majority opinions's first paragraph:
Defendant and appellant Miguel Games-Perez was indicted for possession of a firearm by a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Claiming that he was unaware that he was actually a felon, Mr. Games-Perez filed a motion inlimine, seeking a pre-trial ruling that the government was required to prove that he actually knew he was a felon. When that motion was denied, Mr. Games-Perez filed a motion to enter a conditional guilty plea under Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(a)(2), asking to reserve the right to appeal the district court’s denial of his motion in limine. The district court granted Mr. Games-Perez’s motion, pursuant to which he entered a conditional guilty plea. The district court sentenced him to fiftyseven months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release. Mr. Games-Perez appeals his sentence, which we affirm.
The majority opinion affirms the ruling that the defendant need not know he was a felon in order to be guilty of the federal crime of "felon-in-possission" of a firearm by reaffirming a 1996 ruling of the circuit that no mens rea is required as to the "is a felon" element of this federal crime. Whether that was a sound ruling in 1996 is debatable, but it strikes me that it is a constitutionally problematic ruling in the wake of the SCOTUS Second Amendment rulings in Heller and McDonald that certain persons have a constitutional right to possess a firearm in certain circumstances.
Notably, in a separate lengthy concurrence, Judge Gorsuch assails the soundness of the 1996 precedent stressed by the majority with reference to the Second Amendment:
Following the statutory text would simply require the government to prove that the defendant knew of his prior felony conviction. And there’s nothing particularly strange about that. After all, there is “a long tradition of widespread lawful gun ownership by private individuals in this country,” and the Supreme Court has held the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own firearms and may not be infringed lightly. Staples v. United States, 511 U.S. 600, 610 (1994); District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008). At the same time, of course, the Court has expressly indicated that laws dispossessing felons are consistent with the Constitution. Heller, 554 U.S. at 626; but see United States v. McCane, 573 F.3d 1037, 1048-49 (10th Cir. 2009) (Tymkovich, J., concurring) (questioning the Court’s analysis on this score). And given all this, it is hardly crazy to think that in a § 922(g)(1) prosecution Congress might require the government to prove that the defendant had knowledge of the only fact (his felony status) separating criminal behavior from not just permissible, but constitutionally protected, conduct.
But, despite this astute analysis, Judge Gorsuch feel compelled to follow the circuit's 1996 precedent rather than to conclude (as his own reasoning suggests) that Heller and McDonald makes this old precedent constitutionally suspect. Curious -- and worrisome for anyone seriously committed to gun right and/or concerned about broad application of vague laws limiting gun possession.
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Fourth Circuit suggests people must be "responsible" to get full Second Amendment protection
The Fourth Circuit has an interesting and notable Second Amendment ruling today in US v. Chapman, No. No. 10-5071 (4th Cir. Jan. 4, 2012) (available here). Here is how the opinion begins, the passage that prompts the title of this post, and the ends of the opinion:
Section 922(g)(8) of Title 18 of the United States Code prohibits a person who is subject to a domestic violence protective order issued under certain specified circumstances from, inter alia, possessing a firearm or ammunition in or affecting interstate commerce. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8). The sole issue raised on appeal by Ronald Chapman (Chapman) is whether his conviction on one count of violating § 922(g)(8) survives his as-applied constitutional challenge under the Second Amendment, U.S. Const. amend. II. For reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the district court [which rejected the defendant's Second Amendment claim]....
Chapman’s claim is not within the core right identified in Heller — the right of a law-abiding, responsible citizen to possess and carry a weapon for self-defense. Assuming arguendo that Chapman was a law-abiding citizen at the time he possessed the six firearms and 991 cartridges of ammunition set forth in the indictment, he was, without a doubt, not a responsible citizen by virtue of: (1) a judicial finding that he likely committed domestic abuse; (2) his engaging in behavior causing him to be judicially prohibited for 180 days from using, attempting to use, or threatening to use physical force against his intimate partner that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury; (3) his serious attempts at suicide using firearms in the very home in which he claims to have possessed such firearms for self-defense and his endangering the life of his ex-wife in the process; and (4) his discharge of a firearm out of the bedroom window in the direction of his ex-wife. Accordingly, we conclude that intermediate scrutiny is the appropriate standard of scrutiny for Chapman and similarly situated persons....
We also recognize that the prohibitory net cast by § 922(g)(8)(A)-(B) and (C)(ii) may be somewhat overinclusive given that not every person who falls within in it would misuse a firearm against his own child, an intimate partner, or a child of such intimate partner, if permitted to possess one. This point does not undermine the constitutionality of § 922(g)(8)(A)-(B) and (C)(ii), however, because it merely suggests that the fit is not a perfect one; a reasonable fit is all that is required under intermediate scrutiny....
For the reasons stated, we hold that § 922(g)(8)(A)-(B) and (C)(ii), as applied to Chapman, satisfies the intermediate scrutiny standard in analyzing his Second Amendment challenge to such statute. We, therefore, affirm the judgment of the district court.
This ruling just further confirms my view that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is a quirky one among those rights expressly recognized in Bill of Rights. I doubt that a court would hold that someone could, simply by virtue of being subject to a domestic violence protective order, be subject to federal criminal prosecution for, say, just going to church or writing a book or exercising other First Amendment rights. Perhaps more worrisome for those who care about gun rights, I wonder if and when folks deeply committed to gun control might claim that persons who are, say, unwilling to register their guns with the authorities are not responsible citizens entitled to full Second Amendment protection.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Noting some notable denials of cert by SCOTUS on gun rights and CP restitution
As regular readers know, I was giddy yesterday concerning two cert grants by the Supreme Court on sentencing issues (background here): the Justices took up Apprendi's applicability to fines in Southern Union (basics here) and the application of the Fair Sentencing Act in two "pipeline" crack cases (basics here). However, as well reported in a pair of articles by Warren Richey of the Christian Science Monitor, the Justices denied cert on a couple of notable criminal justices issues as well:
Given that the current SCOTUS Term is already chock full of hot-button issues, I am not very surprised nor very troubled that the Justices decided not to take up new gun and kiddie porn cases. Still, on both fronts, the only real question seems to be when and how, not whether, these matters will garner Supreme Court review.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Might restoration of felon gun rights actually reduce recidivism?
As first blogged here, today's New York Times has a lengthy front-page article on state restoration of gun rights to former felons. The piece is (misleadingly?) headlined "Felons Finding It Easy to Get Gun Rights Reinstated," and the suggestion throughout the article is that the public should be very concerned and quite fearful that some states now make it too easy for some felons to get their gun rights restored after having completed their sentence. But, because recidivism rates for many offenders are often very high, some of the statistics appearing in the Times piece led me to wonder whether resoration of felon gun rights might actually reduce recidivism and enhance public safety.
The Times article rightly noted that sound data on these matters are had to assemble and assess, but the Times was able to run some notable numbers for Washington state. Here is some of what the Times found and reported:
That [crime] question — whether the restorations pose a risk to public safety — has received little study, in part because data can be hard to come by.
The Times analyzed data from Washington State.... Since 1995, more than 3,300 felons and people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors have regained their gun rights in the state — 430 in 2010 alone — according to the analysis of data provided by the state police and the court system. Of that number, more than 400 — about 13 percent — have subsequently committed new crimes, the analysis found. More than 200 committed felonies, including murder, assault in the first and second degree, child rape and drive-by shooting....
The Times’s analysis found that among the more than 400 people who committed crimes after winning back their gun rights under the new law, more than 70 committed Class A or B felonies. Over all, more than 80 were convicted of some sort of assault and more than 100 of drug offenses.
So the Times here reports a 13% recidvism rate for Washington state offenders with restored gun rights, but apparenently the recidivism rate is this high only due to counting of minor (i.e., misdemeanor) crimes. As I understand these numbers, the Times found that only about 200 of the 3,300 prior offenders with restored gun rights since 1995 went on to commit a felony — roughly a 6% felony recidivism rate — and only 70 went on to commit Class A of B felonies — roughly a 2% serious felony recidivism rate. That strikes me as an impressively low felony and serious felony recidivism rate for these offenders, especially given that states often report that half or more persons with a felony record end up committing a future offense.
Seeking general recidivism data for comparison purposes, I found this April 2008 report from the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Commission, titled "Recidivism of Adult Felons, 2007," which reports that in Washington state the "overall rate of recidivism for men was 65.9% compared to 53.6% among women." (I think it is fair to assume that the majority of felons seeking restoration of gun rights are men.) Based on this data, is it fair to suggest that offenders with restored gun rights in Washington state are roughly than five times less likely to recidivate that other offenders? (I also found this January 2011 report from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy which reports that "recidivism rates have declined" in Washington in the period from 1990 to 2006 and that "the largest reductions have been for higher risk offenders.")
This comparative data would seem to at least support a plausible working hypothesis that restoring gun rights to felons might actually reduce recidivism and enhance public safety. Of course, there is a huge apples/oranges problem in trying to compare these recidivism rates. I certainly hope and expect that Washington aspires to restore gun rights to former felons who appear to pose the least risk to public safety, and thus we should hope and expect recidivism rates to be generally lower for these folks than for others with a felony record. Still, given that recidivism rates are appear to be so much lower for those who get their gun rights restored, there is a reasonable basis for at least speculating that the process and grant of restoration of rights works to provide additional encouragement for these former felons to stay crime-free in the future.
Some related Second Amendment and gun policy posts:
- Big (ugly?) NY Times report on felons getting back gun rights
- "Should pardoned felons have gun rights?"
- Can dismissed domestic violence complaint justify revoking gun permit?
- "Medical marijuana users fight for gun rights"
- North Carolina Supreme Court finds state constitutional right for some felons to bear arms
- Notable new Alaska appellate decision on denying gun rights to non-violent felons
- "Convicted Felon Sues State Over Right To Bear Arms"