Updated: Nov 2, 2019
Ever since breaking the story of Hakim Dumas earlier this week, there has been a lot of discussion about whether or not felons have the right to bear arms. As a recap, Mr. Dumas was arrested after he shot two men attempting to kidnap his son because he was a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Many of the discussions deteriorated into name calling and ad hominem attacks, but these discussions are long overdue and need to continue.
Many people were curious as to the nature of Mr. Dumas' past felony. We have since learned that it was drug related, however, it truly begs the question as to why it matters. If his past conviction has been, for example, a homicide, would Mr. Dumas have then lost his right to defend his child from kidnapping? Of course not. So let's break this entire idea down to its base components.
The 2nd Amendment
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
We have stated in the past that even if the 2nd Amendment said that only government had the right to bear arms, it would ultimately change nothing. The 2A does not grant us anything. It actually makes me cringe when people call it a "constitutional right" for that very reason. The 2A protects our natural right to bear arms from the government.
Regardless of it's status as a natural right or "constitutional right," if we were to strictly go by the text of the 2nd Amendment, then it is very simple. There is no asterisk at the end of "shall not be infringed" that leads to a footnote saying "unless..." While most people on our side will claim to agree with that idea, few seem to grasp the principle behind what that actually means.
Rights vs. Privileges
There is one thing that must be made clear from our perspective. Lone Star Gun Rights views the right to bear arms as a natural right. This means it existed before the government, and therefore the government cannot take away that which it did not grant.
I cannot even levy a guess as to how many people I have heard say, "They gave up their right when they committed the felony." That is not how rights work. The one factor that definitively differentiates a right from a privilege is that rights are not subject to forfeiture. Period. When government is given authority to deny a right from one group (regardless of the reason), they have been given the authority to deny the same for everyone else. So how does one square this principle with someone being incarcerated not having access to firearms?
The right to bear arms is a natural right because it is rooted in our natural right to life. In prisons, guards are (supposedly) charged with maintaining order. That by definition includes protecting the inmates from harm. (Whether our current prison system actually does this effectively, or even at all is a different conversation entirely). Because, in theory, each inmate is to be protected from harm at a moment's notice, their right to life is theoretically protected as well. Denying them possession of the required tools does not violate their rights because of this.
Once a felon leaves prison, they no longer have that protection, and in the case of Mr. Dumas, they will have no choice but to purchase black market firearms should they desire to defend their families. What I found to be incredibly frustrating is the same people that were dismissing the notion that felons had the right to bear arms, were the some of the same people who have used the whole "criminals will get guns regardless" talking point.
The logic of holding both of these positions is severely flawed. If they get a gun anyway (which they do), then why are we arresting them for not committing a crime with it? If they're carrying it while grocery shopping, their possession of the gun has the same impact on society as any of us without a felony record doing the same. If the concern is "well he might commit a crime with it," then that is the same logic used by those who push red flag laws.
A felon merely possessing a firearm has no victim, and harms no one. While that does not excuse their past actions, they have paid their debt to society. While it is a simplified way to put a complex issue, the statement made that if someone is too dangerous to be entrusted in society, then they should not be in society, is very true. That is another conversation that should be had.
I am personally someone who loves analyzing data because it tells a story without emotional biases. That said, the correct data must be displayed in the correct way in order to tell the story accurately. That means ensuring that the data you are picking is not cherry picked because it fits your story.
I did get some people during these discussions talking about recidivism rates for released felons. One in particular posted a screenshot from google saying "inmates released from state prisons have a five-year recidivism rate of 76.6%..." etc. While that data is perfectly valid and factual, is entirely incomplete as it relates to this topic.
Some people stated they would be okay with non-violent felons getting their rights "back," while others said no to anyone with a felony. This data is incomplete because it omits entirely the original conviction, and does not include what their subsequent arrest was for. If they were originally arrested for drugs, and subsequently arrested for possessing a firearm, the data makes no distinction. It also tells us nothing about how it relates to the rest of the population. For the record, Martha Stewart is a felon.
If we're being honest, those who believe felons should not be allowed to possess a firearm believe it out of fear. It is not necessarily an unwarranted fear. On its face, it's entirely reasonable and logical to suggest that someone who has harmed or killed another individual shouldn't have access to a weapon that is capable of doing the same. Beyond the surface, however, the law against possession really does nothing to protect us.
There are so many tools that can be used to severely harm or kill an individual, and as stated before, those who want a firearm will get one anyway. So, it begs the question as to how much of a real problem recognizing the rights of felons would be? In short, repealing all laws that prevent anyone from buying/possessing a firearm today will have a negligible effect on society (if any effect at all).
In an unscientific poll I conducted over the past few days, I asked people what they though the percentage of the U.S. population had a violent felony conviction on their record, and the overwhelming majority guessed way too high (with guesses being in the range of 10-20%). While it is impossible to get a 100% accurate number on this, using data from a University of Georgia study, compiled with Bureau of Justice Statistics reports on prison population and parole/probation population from 2016, I was able to calculate a fairly solid estimate that a mere 1.57% of the US population has a violent felony conviction.
One thing this data does not show is how many of those violent felonies were committed as it relates to the War on Drugs. The numbers listed here are classified as "most serious offense," so there is really no telling how many violent crimes would not have occurred had the drug war not been a thing. Regardless, the shows that the actual crime numbers are incredibly low.
Anytime we take on the anti-gun left, we like to bring up how rare it is for ARs and AKs to be used in crimes. Even this article about the 2018 FBI Uniform Crime Report is something we cite when arguing with the left. So why don't we use the same to put our fears of felons having weapons to rest?
The felony data above was from 2016, so the same year's crime data was compiled from the FBI Uniform Crime Report below for comparison. It shows more of the same in that violent crimes do not affect any substantial percentage of the population each year.
While the fears people have about felons owning firearms are understandable, they are not rational. It is exactly the same fear that drives the left's push for gun confiscation, and the right's push for more gun control, but all of it is severely misplaced. Only 0.1% of the population each year is a victim of a violent crime committed with a firearm, regardless if the offender was a violent felon or not. The data goes on to show, only about 1.6% of the entire population has a violent felony conviction.
Reality is simply that it will not be Armageddon if the government recognized every felon's natural rights after their sentence was complete. If you truly support the right to bear arms (and not the privilege to do so), then you absolutely cannot have any exceptions. You cannot say the word "but" after proclaiming your belief.
We are Lone Star Gun Rights; not Lone Star Gun Privileges. We believe firmly that every gun law is an infringement, and we mean every single one. Our current priorities are to enact Constitutional Carry in Texas, and defeat any new gun control. If you share our principles, then please consider joining our organization. We will fight for you, just as we will fight for everyone else. Sign our petition against gun control, and make your voice heard. We will not stop until every infringement is repealed.