A Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that a South Carolina law banning felons from carrying firearms does not apply to people who have been pardoned of a felony.
Lee Franklin Booth had been convicted of second-degree kidnapping, but former Governor Jim Hunt pardoned Booth in 2001. After he was released, Booth attempted to start a gun-making business, but he was unable to obtain the necessary federal license. The group in charge of issuing licenses reasoned that because Booth wasn’t allowed to own a gun, he certainly wasn’t allowed to start a gun-making business.
Booth took the issue to court, where a three-judge panel ruled in favor of Booth. "The plain and unambiguous language [of the law] does not apply to individuals who have been pardoned," wrote Judge Donna Stroud. The judges went on to rule that that this exception applies to all pardons. It is common for certain types of pardons to have different outcomes, but the judges opted for a one-size-fits-all exception.
"We note that in various other statutes our legislature does specify that particular types of pardons have different consequences, but here the legislature chose not to modify the word 'pardon' but instead spoke to pardons in general," Stroud added.
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This ruling is sure to provoke strong reactions from gun advocates and gun control advocates alike. The ruling provides hope to gun enthusiasts who have lost the right to bear arms because of criminal convictions. It also allows convicted felons an opportunity to carry firearms, something that will surely terrify gun control advocates.
What’s your take on the ruling? Do you think that pardoned felons should enjoy all of the benefits their pardon? Or do you prefer the “once a crook, always a crook” approach to convicted felons?