(DE) Pardoned men seek OK to own firearms (interesting issue)


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Drizzt
January 3, 2003, 12:27 AM
Pardoned men seek OK to own firearms
State Justice Department to issue opinion

By Steven Church
01/01/2003

When Ralph T. Miles and some friends stole an electric guitar and a tank of laughing gas 25 years ago, they weren't thinking about what could happen to their constitutional rights to own firearms or run for public office.

"There was this plan for a big concert, and we were all going to be famous rock stars," said the 43-year-old contractor from New Castle County. "We were thinking bigger than reality."

It wasn't until earlier this year, when Miles was pardoned by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner for the crimes he committed as an 18-year-old, that the question of those civil rights came up.

He assumed the pardon would restore the civil rights he lost with his conviction. Chief Deputy Attorney General Ferris Wharton said state prosecutors thought the same thing until questions arose in the 1990s.

"We have always been operating under the assumption that [a pardon] restored the right to possess a firearm," Wharton said.

But Delaware State Police told Miles that if he were in possession of a gun, he would be in violation of federal gun laws forbidding felons from owning firearms.

Miles and at least one other Delaware resident pardoned by the state have asked Lt. Gov. John Carney to help them win back their right to own guns. Carney sits on the state's board of pardons. The Delaware Department of Justice is writing a legal opinion that should clarify the situation.

"This has been a source of confusion going on at least a year," said Joseph Schoell, deputy legal counsel in Minner's office. "It's a big screwy mess."

The problem exists primarily with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. The agency has ruled that Delaware pardons do not restore people's Second Amendment right to bear arms, Schoell said. The ruling was based on state criminal law and a 1976 state Supreme Court decision about whether pardoned people can hold public office.

Officials at the federal agency could not be reached Tuesday.

Schoell said federal firearms officials cited a Delaware law that forbids convicted felons from possessing weapons. That law does not make an exception for pardoned people, Schoell said. The agency ruled that, under its regulations, if a state does not restore all of a person's rights, federal regulators will not restore that person's right to bear arms.

In 1976, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled that a New Castle County man could not hold public office even though he was pardoned by Pennsylvania for a crime he committed in that state years before. The court ruled that the state constitution's ban on convicted felons running for office applies despite the pardon, Schoell said.

Miles wants all his rights back.

"This brings closure to that whole situation," he said. "There is the crime, the punishment, serving the punishment, the time free without another conviction and then the pardon. It is the last step."

http://www.delawareonline.com/newsjournal/local/2003/01/01pardonedmenseek.html

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Blackhawk
January 3, 2003, 12:33 AM
That stinks! :fire:
(edited for language)

PATH
January 3, 2003, 12:53 AM
I'll second that!:cuss:

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