Movement on Restoring Rights for Those Convicted of Felony Offenses

A new bill has the chance to fund a process for those convicted of felony offense to have their disability removed. The federal law that imposes firearm disabilities on convicted felons is called the Gun Control Act. It is codified at 18 U.S.C 922. The law imposes a firearm disability for a host of crimes including misdemeanor domestic violence, those declared mentally incompetent, and those convicted by a crime punishable by more than one year. However, the law also creates a process by which those under a firearm disability can have the disability removed. 18 U.S.C. 925(c) states that a person under a disability may make an application to the Attorney General outlining the reasons why they should be able to possess firearms. The law states that the Attorney General may grant relief if the Attorney General believes that the applicant “will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety and that the granting of the relief would not be contrary to the public interest.”

The Attorney General empowered the ATF to receive such applications on his behalf. For years the ATF received applications to remove disabilities, and if they were satisfied that the person was no longer a threat, the application would be granted. However in 1992 New York Senator Chuck Schumer added a legislative rider to a bill that defunded the restoration process. From that point until now no agency has received funding to hear the applications. This means that for many Americans they have no way to restore their firearm rights.

Senator Buck of Colorado is now trying to reinstate the application process. He cited a grandfather that was convicted of a felony for passing a bad check in the 1970s who has been unable to own a firearm since. Senator Buck’s proposed law was included as part of H.R. 2578 which passed in the House of Representatives on June 3, 2015. However even with Republicans controlling the Senate, the bill has yet to gain traction and is currently pending before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

It will be difficult to make this bill become a law because it so easily attacked as permitting firearms for violent felons. The Huffington Post already called it the “Guns for Felons” Legislation. However, all that the bill would actually do would be to allow the ATF to begin accepting applications. The ATF would still have full discretion to deny any applications for those who they perceived as a threat. However I don’t see how anyone could justify denying a fundamental right to a grandpa who committed a white collar crime like passing a bad check 30 years ago.

If this law is something you believe in you should write a letter to your senators urging them to support the bill.