If you’re a convicted felon, you lose your right to own a firearm unless you somehow get your civil rights restored. That’s something few people actually care about changing at the moment, and it’s understandable. After all, those who have been convicted of a felony have undergone due process and are usually unable to vote either. Their actions have made them second-class citizens.
But until they’re convicted, things are a little different.
That’s what makes the case of an Idaho state legislator facing felony charges in Texas so interesting.
A federal appeals court has ruled a lower court erred in stripping a North Idaho lawmaker of his guns while he is awaiting trial in Texas.
A Fort Worth grand jury charged John Green and two of his clients, Thomas and Michelle Selgas, with tax evasion in July 2018.
Green is a lawyer from Rathdrum and a Republican in his first term representing District 2 in the Idaho House of Representatives.
During Green’s initial court appearance on the charges in August 2018, a Texas magistrate judge ordered he be released pending trial subject to certain conditions, including a requirement that Green not possess firearms.
Green later asked the judge to remove the no-firearms release condition and allow him to have one rifle to protect his family against the wild animals that he said inhabit the area near his North Idaho home.
The judge denied Green’s request. Green filed an objection with the district court, which upheld the no-firearms order. Green then appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans.
In its Oct. 22 opinion, the 5th Circuit said the district court failed to make an “independent determination” that taking away Green’s guns was warranted.
The truth of the matter is that we live in a country where people are supposed to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. They’re not supposed to be treated as guilty right off the bat.
Further, Green stands accused of a non-violent, white-collar crime. These aren’t the folks known for committing murder while awaiting trial, by and large. It may happen, but it’s rare, unlike those arrested for more violent offenses. Especially since those folks routinely get their hands on guns despite previous felony convictions, in many cases.
While I’m not an attorney by any stretch of the imagination, it just doesn’t seem right to me to completely disarm someone who isn’t even accused of a violent offense prior to their trial. While I don’t support disarming non-violent offenders after conviction either, I can at least understand that it’s a case of not differentiating between felonies and thus meets some definition of “fair.” Without a conviction though? No, not in the least.
Green isn’t out of the woods on this yet, though. It now has to be reconsidered, which means the same determination may well be made and he end up disarmed yet again.
Then again, he might not, and that would be huge for him.
It would also serve as a reminder that people retain their rights until such a time as they are convicted of a criminal act. We don’t punish people based on the suspicion of a crime, nor the accusation. Not in a court of law, anyway. While the public is free to make up its mind however it wants, the courts are supposed to be better than that.