Ex-Convicts Can Easily Get Guns, But Find it Hard to Vote

| by Michael Allen

The New York Times reports that, in most states, ex-convicts have to wait years after their release to have their voting rights restored (if at all), but they often have their right to own guns automatically reinstated. 

The gun lobby and their Republican allies have successfully eliminated hearings and restrictions on ex-cons’ ability to immediately reclaim their guns, sometimes with deadly consequences.

But when ti comes to voting, ex-cons are the single biggest group of disenfranchised citizens in the country, with 4.7 million Americans having currently or permanently lost their right to vote as the result of felony conviction.

According to the New York Times:

Under federal law, people with felony convictions forfeit their right to bear arms. Yet every year, thousands of felons across the country have those rights reinstated, often with little or no review. In several states, they include people convicted of violent crimes, including first-degree murder and manslaughter, an examination by The New York Times has found.

While previously a small number of felons were able to reclaim their gun rights, the process became commonplace in many states in the late 1980s, after Congress started allowing state laws to dictate these reinstatements — part of an overhaul of federal gun laws orchestrated by the National Rifle Association.

This gradual pulling back of what many Americans have unquestioningly assumed was a blanket prohibition has drawn relatively little public notice. Indeed, state law enforcement agencies have scant information, if any, on which felons are getting their gun rights back, let alone how many have gone on to commit new crimes.

Critics of the NRA’s “restoration movement” on behalf of ex-cons say that it has already cost lives and continues to jeopardize public safety. Even felons with histories of stalking and mental health problems can get their gun rights back almost immediately.