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November 30, 2007

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Discussion Topic: Should Felons Go Hunting?

From WNYT News Channel 13 in Albany, NY:

Convicted felons are banned from possessing firearms [in New York]. They can still get hunting licenses but no one is in charge of making sure they don't get guns. . . .

Of the more than 102,000 hunting licenses issued in our area last year, 221 went to convicted felons.

Eight felons reported deer kills, with five admitting to illegally using a rifle or shotgun, but the real number may never be known.

Check out this video, and tell us what you think. Should felons be allowed to use a rifle or shotgun for hunting? What about a muzzleloader? A Bow?



I have mixed feelings on this one as "felons" can sometimes become felons for non-violent reasons, but they are judged as likely to commit felonious crimes that could be violent later in life, after they have served their time.

A violent offense, a felon who commits acts of cruelty, with or without a weapon, I would think should be absolved of guns for sure.

But what about the dwi repeat offender, what about the charges that carry a felon label that are not violent?

Could we not allow them to hunt by bow?

At some point I think we have to stand behind the rehabilitation these people are supposed to be getting while incarcerated. Do we not? If not, then perhaps non-violent offenders are being left out a bit. And I realize there is not alot of faith in the penal system as far as rehab goes.

So there appears to be a dilemna.
I have known at least 2 people in my life that have felonies they ''earned'' early in life that were non-violent, and I would not fear them if they owned a gun, much less a bow.


Minnesota imposes a lifetime ban for possession of any firearm for a person convicted of a violent crime, which I think is a great policy. However, our DNR does not cross-check criminal records with firearm licenses, which allows the felons to hunt with shotgun/rifle/pistol (muzzleloaders are exempted). If the law is going to be passed and on the books, I think the states are obligated to run a criminal history check prior to issuing a license that by definition involves possession of a gun. Prime example of: "We don't need more laws, just enforce the ones we have"


I have a good friend who will be getting out of prison soon. We became friends while hunting, and given that he has lost most of his life due to the crime he committed, I have a hard time with the idea that we should take away hunting, too. I understand the rationale behind prohibiting felons from possessing firearms (even if not all are likely to be violent; but a case by case judgment would be too difficult). However, I see no reason why the use of archery should not be allowed. In the case of my friend, and in many others I would imagine, keeping him from hunting would only remove one of the incentives he has to "clean up" his life, and could actually make things a little worse.


Here in Ohio, no person is allowed to possess a "firearm or dangerous ordnance" who is under indictment for, or been convicted of, a "felony of violence". It is a lifetime ban, but can be appealed to a court. The ban against possession may be lifted under several conditions, chief among them that the felon has since led a law-abiding life and is considered (by references, interviews and other sources) to be likely to continue to do so.

This certainly seems a reasonable way to address it. A wholesale ban against all felons is over the top.

Ohio does not ask if you are a felon when you apply for a hunting license. They only ask for proof of age, residency, previous hunting license,(or proof of hunter safety course).

Why don't they ask? Because felons are allowed to possess traps, bows, nets, fishing poles, spears, knives, etc.


The prohibition on armed felons is just and wise, but it also needs to be tempered.

I would support an out-and-out ban on felons hunting, or carrying any deadly weapon (including bows) if there were also some mechanism in place to provide those who have truly rehabilitated to return to the field. A permanent prohibition does not always make sense and serves absolutely no rehabilitative purpose.

Seems to me it would also be a great motivation, especially for younger convicts, to work toward rehabilitation in order to have those rights restored.

And yes, there are a couple of exceptions to that. Murderers and rapists, for example, should never again be trusted (in my opinion, should never have the opportunity to be trusted... burn 'em or hang 'em).

I know a handful of convicted felons who only differ from most of the general public in that they got caught (drug related activities). Several of their peers who were participating in the same activities have gone on to become lawyers, police officers, judges, and even politicians. The suggestion that, somehow the one who got the record is deficient to those who didn't get caught is ridiculous.

Forever is a long time.


I'm on the outside looking in. I'm not a convicted felon so its easy for me to say no.
However, there are a lot of people who have run afoul with the law in nonviolent circumstance. Maybe those could have their gun rights restored, at least for muzzle loaders. I have a hard time allowing violent felons ever being allowed to carry. Most court cases are pleaded down before the person is convicted. If a felon is convicted, its usually for something much less than the original charge. Most of these people are bad and should be locked up! Letting them out and restoring any gun rights to them is just going too far.


Have an aquataince(sp?) who ran afoul of meth and is a convicted felon. Hunting and fishing is the only things that will keep him on the straight and narrow. Non violent offenders should be able to hunt with firearms. My opinion.


Whatever happened to rehabilitation and second chances?

If the felonies are non-violent then I see no problem with them owning guns and hunting.

Murderers, rapists, child molesters should never be out of prison anyway.

Mandatory minimums for drug offenses and calling an 18 year old dating a 16 year old a child molester are just two example of why absolutes never work in law.

Felons should be looked @ at least as violent vs non-violent when making decisions such as hunting rights and owning a gun.


Absolutely Phillip. Great thoughts.


Part of each conviction should include a decision of whether or not to ban them from owning weapons, too, rather than a blanket statement.

WA Mtnhunter


Great idea. This is a case where one size does not fit all.


The problem with that is that you then leave the decision up to an individual judge, who may not want anyone to have guns, much less felons. There has to be a line drawn that if you are convicted of X, Y, or Z, no guns. If that works an individual hardship or inequity on a few, it is still the best way to keep guns out of the hands of those who have committed public offenses.

This is a subject that should be adressed in every state at the state level. Let me say to preface my comments that I am a strong law and order guy.
One has to understand a couple of key points about this issue.
Point one is there are crimes that are non-violent felonies and there are violent felony crimes. If a crime is a felony (e.g. felony fraud) that does not involve a firearm offense, or violence, what's the point!
Point two is a question of common sesnse and decency to wit; when is a person's debt finally paid off. If a person has paid their debt to society, then they should have all their rights returned. When you pay off your home mortgage, the house is yours. The bank cannot return and tell you you can't install a patio in your back yard. I believe most states have a process whereby a convicted felon can petition the governor for full reinstatement of his/her rights including the right of firearm ownership. although I think Dan above forgot to take his paranoia pills, he did make a point that the process will ultimately be in the hands of a judge or sheriff who may be prejudiced to deny the right of firearm possession. Unless you are politically connected or have money to buy influence, someone trying to have their rights restored may find the cards stacked against them.
Last point is where is the incentives in our "system"? We are quick to punish, but what incentive is there for someone to improve oneself? Except for the violent offenders (murderers, rapists, etc)a debt paid should be paid, period.


I agree with the above post and I do believe there is a process for convicted felons to re-establish thier gun rights. Maybe someone will know more about that?


I think convicted felons should have a way to get their gun-owner rights back nationwide. IE: so many years without an infraction, letters of reference or something like that. Common sense would go a long ways in making this just and fair. Eliminating their right FOREVER isn't the way it should be 100% of the time.

I think there is a way to solve to problem with non violent offenders and that would be to use the ban from guns as an insentive to their rehabilitation. Say give them ten years without infraction of another felony and to never test positive for drugs. As for the violent offenders, they are out of luck.

as moeggs

Well, someone who has multiple drunk driving arrests, and may face a felony if they get arrested again, should think about if the crime they are about to commit is worth it. It's all about nipping the problem in the budd before it becomes a problem. AKA a DETERENT. Pay your child support, don't drink and drive, quit writing bad checks, and take responsiblity for your actions jack assess! I say keep the felons out of the field!

John R

In reference to the above post; habitual felons maybe, and the punishment meted for the crime should in itself be deterrent enough (i.e. jail time & etc.). I would hazard a guess that at the moment of the crime, deterrent is the last thing on a miscreant's mind. A lifetime ban on hunting or shooting for all but the most serious crimes is IMHO tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment.
What makes this issue so difficult is the fact that it involves the 2nd Amendment of the Bill of Rights. How do you tell someone who has paid his debt to society, who's crime (a minor felony) was non-violent, and who has shown true change in his/her life, that we will return to you this constitutional right and that constitutional right, but not this particular right.
The problem is that we're great in creating and passing laws, but I opine that we're not very good at thinking them through. A great example of this is the infamous Lautenberg Amendment (Sp?).


At some point, a line must be drawn in the dirt with the words, "Don't step over that line!"
I understand that an individual can become a felon without being violent! I have known some violent people that never became felons!
My problem with the "felon" thing is, the question on the paperwork askes, "Have you ever been CHARGED....", not "Have you ever been CONVICTED....."!
According to the BATF "paperwork" you must fill out to purchase a firearm, even if you were absolved of any wrongdoing, being CHARGED with a felony precludes your firearm purchase!
Our criminal justice system is far from perfect. No criminal justice system will EVER be perfect, but you have to draw a line somewhere!


John E. Law

There are valid arguments on both sides, but I pretty much fall into the "if you can't to the time, don't do the crime" category. A white collar crime is still a crime. Thousands of innocent people lost their retirement savings because of Ken Lay's criminal activity while running Enron. Though he is now deceased, had he lived, he would have retired (assuming he ever got out of prison) with millions in the bank. Would such a person deserve to kick back on a ranch in Utah hunting Mule Deer while his former 68 year old employee is a greeter at Wal-Mart because he'll have to work the rest of his life?

John R

Unfortunately Ken Lay had he lived, would possibly have had enough money to throw around (i.e. buy a big ranch, some local influence) and hunt anyway.
In a perfect world the law is supposed to be applied equitably. We all know that this is not a perfect world. Some people will always have the means to find a way around their punishment (i.e. no guns or hunting) while those without the means have to suffer through their punishment. I don't mean to sound cynical or contrary, but I have observed it myself. Well I've beat that horse enough so I'll retire back into the shadows. There has been some good food for thought posted about this topic. Kudos to all.


Does anyone know the law on this in Illinois? I've heard that 20 years after your last felony conviction you can own firearms again. I've even asked the local police departments but of course they don't have a clue. I was convicted of a non-violent felony at least 18 years ago(we all make stupid mistakes on the road to maturity). I love the outdoors and grew up hunting and fishing.To take hunting away from me for the rest of my life seems like excessive punishment for one juvenile mistake.

Ralph the Rifleman

There is a difference between owning, or purchasing, a firearm verses using one to hunt with.
Enforcing a law not allowing a convicted felon to purchase a gun from a FFL dealer is reasonable under a backround check, but if I invite a friend over for some grouse shooting and lend him one of my guns am I now breaking the law?
This person doesn't own the gun, he is just hunting with it.

as moeggs

I would add to my above post the following: I don't think a person convicted of a felony should be banned for life from owning or possessing a firearm, but it should 5-10 years based on the crime. A serious felony such as homicide, manslaughter, child abuse, felony assault and battery, forget it. Touch a gun and your up sheet creek. And to say people don't think about the consequenced prior to committing a felony is a bunch of sheet. Seems the consequences need to be more severe then. When I've been drinking i sure and the hell think about what could happen if i get behind the wheel. You should too!


I think we agree on one thing; this is not a "one size fits all" case. I would leave it up to a judge to decide who may legally own a firearm. Perhaps there could even be restrictions, like only allowing single shot firearms or something like that.

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