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Old September 1st, 2009, 07:39 PM
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Default Felon wins the right to own a gun


Published: Sep 01, 2009 03:28 AM
Modified: Sep 01, 2009 03:30 AM




Felon wins the right to own a gun

Narrow ruling causes big stir


BY SARAH OVASKA, Staff Writer

RALEIGH - A state law barring felons from owning firearms unfairly prevented a Garner man from owning guns, the N.C. Supreme Court ruled Friday, thrusting the court into the national debate over gun ownership.
The opinion applied only to Barney Britt, who was convicted of a drug crime in 1979, and it didn't have an immediate effect on the thousands of other felons in the state. Criminal defense lawyers who practice in federal courts said they don't know what effect, if any, the opinion will have on federal rules, which prevent felons from buying and owning weapons except when a state has restored that right.

The ruling authored by Justice Edward Thomas Brady held that Britt should be able to own guns and that the state unfairly took away his right to own a firearm with a 2004 law that barred felons from owning firearms. Britt was convicted in 1979 of selling Quaalude pills, but he didn't have any further tangles with the law.

Though the opinion focused just on Britt's case, both sides of the gun control issue saw the ruling as significant because the state's highest court found that Britt had a right to bear arms that trumped the state's ability to restrict him from owning any weapons.

Advocates spent Monday poring over the 5-2 decision in Britt v. State of North Carolina. The decision was seen as a victory for those who view government restrictions as too strict, while those in favor of tighter gun control described it as an alarming blow.

"This has implications beyond just North Carolina," said Robert Levy of the Cato Institute, a Washington-based Libertarian think tank that opposes gun control. "North Carolina has now decided that some felonies are not so serious to result in deprivations of the right to defend oneself."
Roxane Kolar, director of North Carolinians against Gun Violence, said the decision was troubling.

"I've never heard of this before, of a felon having an inalienable right to own a weapon," she said. "It's putting a lot of our state gun laws at risk."
The decision could spark a rush to local courthouses as felons try to have their rights to own and store firearms in their homes restored. Those with the best chance would likely be those with cases similar to Britt's; people convicted of nonviolent crimes who had their right to own a gun restored and then taken away with a 2004 law, said Jeanette Doran, a senior staff attorney with the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law.

Legal e-mail message boards lit up over the weekend, with lawyers swapping tales of clients convicted of felony littering charges then barred from hunting deer for the rest of their lives.

The state legislature may address the issue with a bill introduced for the 2009-2010 session by Rep. Phil Haire, a Democrat from Western North Carolina, that would give limited hunting privileges to nonviolent felons.
Ready to hunt again

Britt said he's excited about hunting this fall and relieved that his four-year legal battle is over.

"It's not a privilege; it's a right," Britt said about gun ownership. "It's a constitutional right."

The office of N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, who defended the state law in the case, declined to comment on the ruling.

A passionate hunter who never had any subsequent arrests, Britt had his right to own guns restored from 1987 until 2004, when the new law went into effect.

Brady wrote that the law was too broad in including nonviolent felons like Britt, who had otherwise been law-abiding and had owned guns for 17 years after he successfully petitioned in 1987 to have his civil rights restored, including owning a gun.

"He is not among the class of citizens who pose a threat to public peace and safety," Brady wrote.

Troubled by the ruling

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson said she was alarmed that her fellow justices ignored state law by giving Britt an exemption. She said the ruling made North Carolina the first jurisdiction to uphold a convicted felon's right to own firearms over a state's power to regulate gun ownership.

"Today's decision opens the floodgates wide before an inevitable wave of individual challenges to not only the Felony Firearms Act, but our statutory provisions prohibiting firearm possession by incompetents and the mentally insane," Timmons-Goodson wrote.

Her fears were shared by those seeking tighter gun-control laws.
Kolar of North Carolinians against Gun Violence expressed concern that judges would be the ones to decide whether felons could own guns, something she says gives too much discretion to the courts.

Jim Woodall, the district attorney for Orange and Chatham counties, said he found the opinion worrisome and hoped it wouldn't be applied broadly to others.

"They're carving out a one-person exemption," he said.
sarah.ovaska@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4622

http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/1670142.html
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Old September 1st, 2009, 07:47 PM
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Default Re: Felon wins the right to own a gun

Well I am kind of torn on this one and here's why:

1. Non violent crime, no gun involved

2. the crime was 30 years ago and he has been clean since then.

3. MY ongoing rant about the asinine 'war on drugs' in this country.

I mean honestly, someone gets nailed selling drugs, no violence or actions against another, they do their time and then go on the straight and narrow for 30 years .... and they can never own a gun again?

There has to be some 'give and take' here and honestly I agree with this decision. Now on that note though I would say ANYONE convicted of a violent crime, no matter how small, should NEVER be allowed to own a gun again.
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Old September 1st, 2009, 07:55 PM
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Default Re: Felon wins the right to own a gun

Kinda ironic that the judges name is Brady.
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Old September 1st, 2009, 08:01 PM
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Default Re: Felon wins the right to own a gun

I applaud this decision!!!
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Old September 1st, 2009, 08:26 PM
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Default Re: Felon wins the right to own a gun

Quote:
Originally Posted by dc dalton View Post
Well I am kind of torn on this one and here's why:

1. Non violent crime, no gun involved

2. the crime was 30 years ago and he has been clean since then.

3. MY ongoing rant about the asinine 'war on drugs' in this country.

I mean honestly, someone gets nailed selling drugs, no violence or actions against another, they do their time and then go on the straight and narrow for 30 years .... and they can never own a gun again?

There has to be some 'give and take' here and honestly I agree with this decision. Now on that note though I would say ANYONE convicted of a violent crime, no matter how small, should NEVER be allowed to own a gun again.
Bolded is what I'm commenting on.

If they are released from prison, they have been deemed to be 'safe' to society. Therefore, their rights should be fully restored (after probation). If they aren't fit to have all their rights restored, keep them locked up. (just my opinion).
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Old September 1st, 2009, 08:34 PM
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Default Re: Felon wins the right to own a gun

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrBi11 View Post
Kinda ironic that the judges name is Brady.
i caught that one too
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 09:55 AM
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Default Re: Felon wins the right to own a gun

Like it or not, the 2nd Amendment covers felons as well, unless we're planning on stripping US citizenship from anyone who has ever committed a crime.
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 09:58 AM
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Default Re: Felon wins the right to own a gun

Quote:
Originally Posted by kunsunoke View Post
Like it or not, the 2nd Amendment covers felons as well, unless we're planning on stripping US citizenship from anyone who has ever committed a crime.
They can't vote either. They surrender most of their rights when they are found to be a felon. And it isn't "anyone who has ever committed a crime" but more like "anyone that's committed a heinous crime."
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 10:15 AM
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Default Re: Felon wins the right to own a gun

Quote:
Originally Posted by MTechnik View Post
They can't vote either. They surrender most of their rights when they are found to be a felon. And it isn't "anyone who has ever committed a crime" but more like "anyone that's committed a heinous crime."
That's now changing. One Example

If ex-convicts get their rights back as American citizens they have to get all of those rights back, and that includes voting rights AND gun rights. You can't just pick and choose the parts of the US Constitution that you want to apply to certain people.

Sure, there will be some folks that will say "We should NOT coddle these people!" and call restoration of voting rights an atrocity. But ex-cons are either citizens or they aren't.

And if we're so concerned about the ex-cons' recidivism rate, how about we eliminate plea bargaining and parole, and build more prisons, such that criminals are punished appropriately for their crimes?

Let's focus on the real problem instead.

Why are DAs and judges releasing criminals prematurely? And why aren't we as citizens holding them accountable?
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 10:26 AM
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Default Re: Felon wins the right to own a gun

Quote:
Originally Posted by kunsunoke View Post
That's now changing. One Example

If ex-convicts get their rights back as American citizens they have to get all of those rights back, and that includes voting rights AND gun rights. You can't just pick and choose the parts of the US Constitution that you want to apply to certain people.

Sure, there will be some folks that will say "We should NOT coddle these people!" and call restoration of voting rights an atrocity. But ex-cons are either citizens or they aren't.

And if we're so concerned about the ex-cons' recidivism rate, how about we eliminate plea bargaining and parole, and build more prisons, such that criminals are punished appropriately for their crimes?

Let's focus on the real problem instead.

Why are DAs and judges releasing criminals prematurely? And why aren't we as citizens holding them accountable?
Yeah, the system is all kindsa fucked up. "We" (not you or I) like criminalizing people for harmless crimes. We love three-strikes rules. We loooove loading prisons. There's a giant private industry that makes a fortune building and running prisons.

Then we "game the system" by making life sentences be 7 years, early releases otherwise, etc.

We should be less eager to send people to prison, but be a little more adamant about keeping them there for full terms.

That entire system is completely bollocks'ed.

I approve of this guy getting his gun back.

I was just saying that felons lose LOTS of rights that are viewed as intrinsic, inalienable, etc.
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