Bullet Points | Ex-Context | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Bullet Points

How about gun rights for ex-cons?

Just the other day, I ran into my old sidekick and walking partner down in the Strip. (A walking partner is the guy who walks laps around the yard with you in the joint). We kicked the bobo for a few minutes, and he told me that last week he got bagged for doing 35 mph in a 25 mph zone. Getting a speeding ticket isn't a big deal for most people, but ex-cons aren't most people.

After my buddy handed over his license and registration, the cop ran an NCIC (National Crime Information Computer) check on him. Once he realized he was dealing with a convicted felon, the cop ordered my buddy to get out of his car and assume the position, whereupon the cop patted him down.

There was still a guy in my buddy's car riding shotgun. Now that this had become a full-scale investigation, the cop asked him to cough up his driver's license too. Anxious to just get out of there, the guy handed it over. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that had either of them failed to "voluntarily" comply, more cops would be showing up and everybody would be hanging around for hours until they could prove they weren't up to anything.

When the cop ran the passenger through NCIC, he found that he was a regular citizen with zero criminal record. But he also found out that he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

The situation had become pregnant with possibilities. I am not exactly sure what would have happened if that guy had been packing his gat. But considering how open to interpretation the law is concerning possession of a firearm, my educated guess is that my old partner would have had to hire some pretty expensive legal talent to prove he didn't have constructive possession of that gun -- even if it was in a holster under the other guy's jacket. His chances of ducking a mandatory 10 years for felon in possession probably would have been slim. The feds have a 98 percent conviction rate. Fortunately there was no gun.

I've been thinking about guns a lot lately; there's been a lot of talk about them in the wake of the recent rash of school shootings. It appears a lot of people would favor the mandatory insertion of rectally implanted monitoring devices into every man, woman and child in the United States -- if doing so would allow them to sleep every night with the illusion that the world is a safe place. There are others who don't care how many people get shot, so long as their 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms remains intact. Some even suggest that limiting firearm purchases to no more than one per month puts us on a slippery slope -- one that leads to the loss of all of our constitutional rights.

Like most criminals, I am strict constructionist when it comes to the Bill of Rights. We are a nation of laws, after all. If we can't count on what's written in the Constitution, where would we be? And as constructionists, cons and ex-cons are unconditionally pro-gun. Our problem is that a lot of the other pro-gun people seem to be concerned only with their own right to pack heat. From what I've been hearing, I would guess that a substantial majority of my fellow pro-gun people would applaud the way my buddy's 4th Amendment rights got kicked in the dirt -- all over a lousy speeding ticket.

And how about the rest of the Constitution? To me, gun-rights advocates seem to be saying, the hell with habeas corpus, unwarranted searches and due process, but hands off my .30-06.

It's time for a little intellectual purity here. As soon as people begin picking and choosing the parts of the Constitution that they like, we're already at the bottom of the slippery slope. I've read the Bill of Rights: It's a black-or-white, all-or-nothing proposition. There isn't a word in it about ex-felons. It is disingenuous for anyone to wrap himself in the Constitution, and demand the right to own an arsenal, unless he also supports my right to slip a roscoe under my belt before I leave the house.

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