Non-Violent Felons Shouldn't Lose Gun Rights

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

The way our system works is that people are supposed to have their gun rights until they’ve shown there’s a good reason they shouldn’t have them. That’s not based on my judgement or yours–unless you happen to be a judge, anyway. It’s the result of a court’s decision.

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One way we do that is by denying felons their right to keep and bear arms.

Part of the rationale with that is that felons are more likely to continue being involved in criminal activity and so they shouldn’t get their gun rights back that easily.

And when you’re looking at someone with a string of armed robbery convictions, that makes a certain degree of sense. Of course, the fact that he has a string of armed robberies despite his felon status suggests that the law prohibiting him from getting a gun isn’t really working all that well, but I still see where people are coming from on that one.

But what about non-violent felons? Especially those for crimes most don’t even realize are felonies.

A Utah woman convicted of a felony for trying to cash a fake check in 2008 has taken her fight to own a gun to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Her attorneys filed a petition for review with the high court last week on this question: Whether the Second Amendment allows the federal government to permanently disarm petitioner Melynda Vincent, who has one 15-year-old nonviolent felony conviction for trying to cash a bad check.

“She has no history of violent behavior or other conduct that suggests she could not responsibly possess a firearm for self-defense,” her lawyers wrote. “And for more than 15 years, she has been a law-abiding citizen.”

Vincent, a single mother with two advanced degrees who works as a licensed clinical social worker, wants to buy a gun to protect herself and to go hunting and target shooting with her family. But the conviction for attempting to cash a fraudulent $498.12 check at a Salt Lake grocery store prohibits her from ever possessing a firearm.

“I can’t even be in a car with a bullet,” Vincent told the Deseret News when it first wrote about her case in 2020.

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Vincent is a prime example of the kind of person that doesn’t really represent a risk to the general public despite being a convicted felon.

One, she’s clearly not violent. She was convicted of trying to cash a bogus check. That’s not a violent crime. There’s also no history of violent crime from before her conviction.

Two, she’s clearly not a recidivist. For 15 years now, she’s not only kept her nose clean but has a career helping people as a licensed clinical social worker.

In other words, no matter what happened before, she’s clearly on the straight and narrow right now, which is what we can from our past felons. We want them to go on to lead productive, positive lives.

So why are we still punishing them, particularly when they’re not violent in the first place?

I hope the Supreme Court takes up the case. I hope that they make the right decision on it and we end this injustice for good.

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