A newly proposed bill in Missouri to allow violent and nonviolent felons the chance to regain their gun rights after completing their sentences is nonsensical and would threaten public safety if passed.
House Bill 1828, introduced by Republican Rep. Joe Don McGaugh, lists 97 felonies designated as "violent," including murder, forcible rape, infanticide and kidnapping, according to MissouriNet.
For those felonies, convicted offenders would be able to petition the circuit court where they live or were convicted in three years after completing their sentence to regain their gun rights. Those guilty of other felonies would have that right automatically restored upon completion of the sentence, reports KFVS.
McGaugh acknowledges the bill is still in progress and not ready for a vote, and the intentions of the legislation seem good.
Providing his reasoning for the bill, McGaugh said: “People make bad decisions when they’re young. They shouldn’t be penalized for the rest of their lives. They also shouldn’t be penalized from protecting themselves and their families.”
Such a statement is certainly agreeable to anyone who thinks that public life in the U.S. has been subject to overcriminalization and that people should be given a second chance.
McGaugh is ignoring the giant gray area between this sentiment and proposing to give individuals who may have committed multiple felonies in the past the chance to lawfully own and operate a deadly weapon.
Sheriff Jim Arnott of Greene County, Missouri, says the proposal is a horrible idea and contradicts the current values of the justice system, in which citizens convicted of felonies forfeit the right to vote and the right to own a gun.
Beyond this, he points out that the proposal is nonsensical because convicted felons who obtain firearms under the newly proposed law would still be violating federal law, OzarksFirst reports.
And that reality is something gun salesmen will be paying attention to, including Zach Terhark of Springfield’s Eagle Armory.
“Regardless of what legislation passes, I am still going to have to follow the federal laws as a federal dealer, so it won't change how I do things at all," Terhark said.
Mental health should be a greater focus for advocates of felons transitioning back into society, but allowing gun ownership only three years after the completion of a sentence has potential to undermine the intent of the legislation. It is also unclear whether a violent felon could potentially try to have a petition moved to a circuit where he or she believes the judge may be more likely to grant it.
While the final decision to grant individual violent felons their gun rights ultimately comes down to circuit courts, the possibility of violent crimes occurring will inevitably increase and there will be people who slip through the cracks who should not be allowed to own a gun.
No one has yet voted on the bill, but it has already drawn opposition and will inevitably have to be amended substantially if it is to pass a House vote.