Arkansas bill will help convicted felons regain gun rights

Arkansas bill will help convicted felons regain gun rights
(AP Photo/Philip Kamrass, File)

When you’re convicted of a felony, one of the big things that you lose is your gun rights. It’s not all you lose, mind you, but it’s one of the things stripped from you.

Whether you end up in prison or not, you will then be punished for the rest of your life because of that felony, even if you actually are reformed.

Sure, you can regain those rights, but it’s not particularly easy to do.

In Arkansas, a new bill seeks to change that.

State Rep. Vivian Flowers filed a bill Monday that would provide a pathway for people previously convicted of felonies to regain their right to possess a firearm after a certain amount of time has passed.

House Bill 1013 would establish a path to restoration of the right to possess a firearm and provide for the discharge, dismissal and sealing of a felony conviction.

Arkansas law currently states no person shall possess or own any firearm if they have been convicted of a felony.

Current law allows a person found guilty of a felony to restore their gun rights by expunging their conviction under the First Offender Act, receiving a pardon that expressly restores the ability to own guns through the Arkansas Drug Court, or by having their rights restored by the governor, according to a website titled Natural State Law.

House Bill 1013 would amend Arkansas law to add a Firearm Right Restoration subchapter that would allow for someone who has completed their sentence and is eligible under certain guidelines to file a uniform petition to discharge, dismiss and seal a felony and any related felonies that occurred out of the same course of conduct or criminal episode. A person may not petition to discharge, dismiss and seal multiple felonies that have no causal connection.

The subchapter would apply to all felony convictions occurring before, on or after the effective date of the act.

In other words, if you’re convicted of multiple felonies stemming from a single incident but straighten up your act, you can seek to get your rights restored under this measure.

If you’re a recidivist, no dice.

Frankly, I think this looks like a good idea. While criminals should be punished, one of the goals of that punishment is to reform these folks into productive members of society. Yet as laws currently stand, we don’t actually let them be any such thing.

If these people represent a threat to the public, why aren’t they still in prison?

On the other hand, if they’ve paid their debt to society, then why not restore their right to keep and bear arms?

There will be, undoubtedly, a number of people who oppose this bill for a number of reasons. None of those reasons will be sufficient justification for withholding people’s gun rights from people who have shown they learned their lesson.

If you keep punishing people for past sins, you cannot be surprised when they decided to become what you’re still treating them as.

Especially when an unreformed felon isn’t going to care about having his gun rights restored, he’ll just get a gun on the black market or through theft. It’s only the reformed to who this will ultimately apply.