The Line

The New York Times calls for felons to have all of their rights restored, the NRA and Open Carry Texas go at each other, and thoughts on gun control and the UCSB killings. Plus, Armed Novelist launches a blog of his own.

1.) Felons. There has been off and on discussion about felons and gun rights. There has even been off and on discussion about gun rights for people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. (Based both on its status as a misdemeanor as opposed to a felony and the ex post facto manner in which the ban was applied) While a majority of the discussion on felons was covered last month in Random Thoughts, let us go over the background once more.

To be clear, let me get my bias out of the way. I believe that if a person is trusted enough to be released, he or she should have all their rights restored. To not do so both defeats the purpose of his release (“we don’t trust you but we’ll let you go” is asinine) AND gives the person all the more reason to continue living on the fringes of society.

So let’s discuss how all this began. To be blunt, it didn’t start with gun rights (although an April piece on The Truth About Guns brought up the topic briefly), but rather with a call by Attorney General Eric Holder January for restoring voting rights. While it is highly unlikely (at least for the moment) that many states will entertain the idea, it began a discussion on the subject that eventually expanded into a debate about the rights of felons generally. In February, an opinion piece on Bloomberg View asked that if felons can have voting rights, why couldn’t they be allowed to have firearms?

At the end of May, and seemingly out of nowhere, the New York Times opined that felons should be given all of their rights in a column entitled “In Search of Second Chances” The column’s point was, after a person’s time has been served, there is no reason to continue to hound them by taking away their rights. The Times uses a quote by George W. Bush to push this; “America is the land of second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.”

Also getting a bit more energy is the so-called “Ban The Box” campaign. If Wikipedia is to be believed, the movement kicked off in the late 1990s. It’s objective is to get employers to remove check boxes that ask applicants if they have a criminal record. Essentially, the movement’s goal is to make it illegal to discriminate strictly on the basis of a criminal record.

Most recently, the movement has appeared in Los Angeles. Supporters say that it gives felons a “second chance” (the running theme behind all of this) while opponents say it puts public safety at risk.

(On that subject, Al-Jazeera America ran a profile on a Baltimore ex-convict-turned-entrepreneur. Truly incredible story, in my opinion.)

All of this came out of nowhere, and may not lead to much, but it is worth beginning the dialogue. Where is the line between punishment for the crime and punishing for the sake of punishment?

2.) Mental health. An op-ed released this week by John Lott and former Harvard psychiatry professor Arthur Berg discussed why psychiatrists can’t stop mass killings. The op-ed notes that the man behind the UCSB killings was already seeing top-quality mental health doctors when he went on his rampage.

The column ends with this:

No one wants a dangerous person to have a weapon. But our mental-health system simply can’t be the last line of defense. There are just too many mistakes. Potential victims need to be able to defend themselves.

3.) UCSB. I have a policy around here of not bothering with directly naming shooters. That said there is an interesting report on Tavern Keepers about how this most recent mass killing occurred despite every gun control program we’re told is needed being in effect. Mental health, universal background checks, waiting periods, etc. are California law and none of it mattered to the killer.

4.) Open Carry. As you may have heard, Open Carry Texas has managed to anger everybody on both sides of the gun debate with their demonstrations at various private businesses. This came to a head on June 3rd, when the NRA referred to Open Carry as “downright scary” to many. This statement wasn’t well-received either, and within a day the organization backtracked on its statement regarding OC.

5.) This Is The Line. Finally this week, frequent Midnight Run contributor and personal friend Armed Novelist has started up a blog of his own. The blog, named after the song by the metal band Demon Hunter, tends to take a more formal, long-form approach to gun news than this weekly brief. Definitely worth checking out, especially if you are familiar with his work over on deviantART and Tumblr.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

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