Dr. Helen brings up the topic of NICS improvements. This started out as a comment over on her blog, but it started getting big, so I figured I’d do a linky-then-comment deal here instead.
The NICS improvement bill was something that has been talked about on the gun blogosphere before. A lot of folks are against it because they are against background checks entirely, largely because they don’t believe in the concept of “prohibited person”. It’s often heard that once you serve your debt to society, you get your rights back.
I am sympathetic to the argument, because I do think the current laws catch way too many non-violent people in its net. There is no compelling reason for denying someone convicted of tax evasion their right to keep and bear arms, and yet it is done. I do oppose a large portion of the current felon in possession law. Felon in possession should only apply to people who have committed violent acts, not to non-violent felonies, which there are many.
I do support laws which prohibit criminals, who commit acts of violence, and are convicted through due process of law, from possessing weapons. It’s accepted in our legal tradition that people can be deprived of their liberties through due process; if part of the sentence can include being thrown in jail for several year, part of it can also include not possessing weapons for whatever amount of time the legislature sees fit. I also support people who are adjudicated mentally incompetent from possessing arms.
That said, I think the current practice of Congress not funding any of the programs that can restore the rights of people is wrong. There should be a path for people who have lead clean lives for years to have their right restored. I’m sympathetic to someone who as an 18 or 19 year old, might have gotten in trouble with the law, but has lead a clean life for years and is now a responsible member of the community. There should be recourse for those people.
But it doesn’t alter the fact that if we’re going to have NICS, and we are, it’s not going away, that it should function effectively. It’s already illegal for the people who have those criminal or mental health record to even touch a firearm, so it doesn’t alter the legal situation to have NICS updated with those records.
So therefore, to the disappointment of many of you, I’m sure, I support making sure NICS has the data it needs on criminal and mental health records. We should accept that, and concentrate on things like getting rid of Lautenberg, getting funding for restoring rights to people who have truly reformed themselves, and modifying felon-in-possession statutes to only cover truly violent and mentally unstable people.