Florida Bill Would Reinstate Felons' Gun Rights

Photo Courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation

A convicted felon cannot legally own a firearm. Not unless they go through the legal hurdles to have all their rights restored. It’s a hassle, but if they want to own a firearm and not end up back in handcuffs, it’s what they have to do.

Many argue this makes perfect sense. After all, these are felons. They’ve already proven they can’t be trusted to obey the law.

Yet a Florida bill seeks to swing a completely different way on the topic. It wants to give them their gun rights back.

A Republican senator has proposed a bill to reinstate gun rights to nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences.

Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, filed SB 1932 at the start of the new legislative session on March 1. The bill would amend Florida statute 98.0751 to reinstate the civil and firearm rights of felons who have completed all parts of their sentence — time served, probation and legal financial fees — so long as they were not convicted of a violent crime.

In an interview with Orlando Weekly on Monday, Perry said his bill would expand on the Amendment 4 vote from 2018. Perry said he has been told by multiple people that recidivism rates go down when civil rights are restored.

“If we can reduce recidivism rates, there’s less victims of crimes,” Perry said, “and public safety should be a paramount issue in Tallahassee.”

Perry said he has had people with prior convictions who have served their time say they still feel as though they are being punished.

“They still feel excluded from the community,” Perry said.

It should be noted that Democrats have been pushing to restore felons voting rights up and down the board. Perry’s bill is really of a similar kind, if you really think about it.

If Democrats–a group that is typically anti-gun–think that felons should get their voting rights restored, how can they reconcile that with keeping these same felons from having their gun rights restored?

Plus, Perry’s bill only applies to non-violent felons.

And let’s be honest here, there are grounds to agree with the idea of felons having their rights restored across the board. See, we say that when someone completes their sentence that they’ve paid their debt to society. However, society keeps making them pay. We keep them from being actual citizens of this country, excluding them from certain rights for the rest of their lives unless they have the means and resources to seek to have their rights restored.

Even that isn’t a guarantee, either.

Honestly, I’m inclined to hope that Perry’s bill is passed in Florida. It’ll be fun watching Democrats crow about how felons should vote while pretending they can’t be trusted with a firearm. Governments can be far deadlier than any firearm could be, after all, so watching them dance that particular jig will be hilarious.

Either way, though, it’s definitely a subject that needs to be discussed. Should non-violent offenders have their gun rights restored? I certainly believe so, and I think if you’re going to try and entrust them with a vote, they should also be entrusted with their right to keep and bear arms.