Saturday, November 30, 2013

Criminals Are People Too

Here is where I will lose friends.  In this emotional debate on "reasonable" gun laws there is one issue neither side looks deeply into; the rights of a criminal.  Bear with me here.  For many years I have been very uncomfortable with our criminal justice system which brands a convicted criminal for life, regulates him to a lower class strata for life and prohibits him from ever owning a firearm for self protection.  Is anyone ready to stand up and declare that we never convict an innocent man?  Are we to dispense with Christ's admonition to forgive seven times seventy times?  Are we comfortable with the reality that by permanently branding a man as a felon we will subjugate him to the status of an angry bum, a sure recipe to create a repeat offender, thus another victim?  Chris Matthews referred to these human beings several times in the video I posted (Sputterings).  He called them, "Criminal...Nut...Addict...Wife Beater" at one point and "Nut...Crazy Person"; "Criminal...Wife Beater...Addicts...Dregs"; "Felon...Nut...Criminal...Wife Beater" subsequently.   Having written them off as permanently undesirable, he directly asked Mr, Pratt if he would be willing to sell a gun to such a person.  Mr. Pratt replied "Of course not.", but I would like to look closer.  A criminal goes through three distinct legal conditions.

The first condition is prior to committing a crime.  Here he is still innocent.  This is where Aaron Alexis was when he legally bought that shotgun he planned to use at the Navy Yard.  There is no possible way the government can discern anyone's intent when buying a gun.  This is why the background checks do not work.  Most of the shooters got their guns elsewhere or were "clean" when checked.  This is also the condition a person who will never commit a crime is in.  He is identical to the planning criminal except rather than being a future criminal he is merely a potential victim.  Restricting firearm sales will only make our society a more victim rich one.  If we create a system that filters potential criminals then we violate their rights as well as our own.

The second condition is when he commits the crime and is guilty.  Here, he has no right to remain free.  Here is where the police are serving their purpose in investigation, arrest and conviction.  This is the condition in which our system must separate such a man from the general public.  I pray that our courts and officers work diligently to convict the truly guilty and accurately avoid convicting the innocent.  Unfortunately, there are numerous examples of this not being the case.  Regardless, a convicted felon must be incarcerated and is not a threat to innocent people.

The third condition is after serving his time and having paid his debt to society.  Here is where the debate heats up.  If we are to have any hope of avoiding recidivism we must give the convicted felon the hope of returning to the normal legal condition.  We must give him that goal of wiping out his past mistakes, learning a better way and living the rest of his life well.  Today, we do not do that.  Today we convict him for life of any crime.  Today we take Chris Matthews position and consider them eternally sub-human.  If I had my way, once the state releases a convicted felon back onto the street, they destroy his records and release him from his prior life.  This would not put us in greater danger because as Mr. Pratt tried to point out, a unrepentant, hardened criminal who intends to harm again will get a gun regardless of our best efforts to prevent his acquiring one.  However, by giving a released felon a second chance he may re-think such a path and fly straight.  Either way, now that he is back to condition "one", he is a human and he deserves that much respect, that much benefit of the doubt and the right to protect himself.  We must always keep in mind the "deal" we ask of God, "...forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."  Further, is anyone willing to defend the position that by permanently labeling and restricting a convicted felon we are preventing crime?

Again, this is why background checks and registration manifestly do not work, cost millions of vainly wasted dollars and cause harm.  This is why Mr. Larry Pratt and the Gun Owners of America continue to oppose them.  They do not prevent crime and they restrict our ability to keep ourselves safe from the indiscernible - the plotting criminal.

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