Only in America: Laws make it easier for ex-felons to buy guns, harder to vote

The New York Times has a long and interesting investigative story this morning under the headline: “Felons Finding It Easy to Get Gun Rights Reinstated.”

It begins with the tale of an Endicott, Wash., man with two felony convictions whose “gun rights” were restored without so much as a court hearing.  He then killed an acquaintance, shooting him at point-blank range.

And this wasn’t a one-time aberration.  The Times examined hundreds of cases across the country of felons, some convicted of violent crimes, who had had their gun rights restored. These cases, in fact, included hundreds who had had their gun rights restored in one state in one year.  In 2010 alone, The Times reports, 430 people convicted in Washington State of either a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor had their gun rights restored.  In at least 11 states, reporter Michael Luo found, nonviolent felons can get back weapons with no review of any kind.

But the right to vote? Well, in some places that’s not accomplished with such ease.

In the last year alone, states have set up restrictions that could stop or make it much more difficult for 5 million Americans, including but certainly not limited to ex-felons, from voting in the next presidential election, NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice reported last month.

So, for example, while Washington State since 1995 restored gun rights to 400 felons or domestic violence violators who committed another crime (including, The Times notes, murder), Florida and Iowa passed laws, the Brennan Center reports, that will make it “substantially more difficult or impossible for people with past felony convictions to get their voting rights restored.”

Does this juxtaposition seem remotely logical to you?  It’s not, after all, the ex-felons who are lobbying successfully for the gun rights. It’s the National Rifle Association and their Republican allies.

And it keeps getting worse. Right now, an NRA-pushed bill is making its way through Congress that would make it easier to carry a concealed weapon across state lines. The bill would require states that allow a concealed weapon to extend that right to any visitor from another state with similar laws. (So much for the usual Republican mantra of states rights.)

Conservatives will tell ya it’s our right to bear arms. But what about our right to vote? These same conservatives are a whole lot less charitable about that. Of course, this just may have something to do with the fact that groups being disenfranchised by Republican-controlled legislators this year, the Brennan Center reports, are disproportionately the young and poor and minorities, people who tend to vote for the Democratic party.

The Brennan Center study found, for example, that:

  • Five states had passed laws in 2011 requiring a Photo ID, a change that the center said could affect 3.2 million people who don’t have one.
  • Three states passed laws requiring proof of citizenship.
  • And three big states — Florida, Ohio and Georgia — rolled back rights to vote early, an approach that has made it easier for people to cast ballots.

So I guess more Americans might be able to pack their guns to the polls in the election next year. But fewer of ’em will be allowed to vote?  Like I said, only in America.


About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
This entry was posted in Brennan Center for Justice, concealed weapons, election laws, gun rights, Uncategorized, voting rights and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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