U.S. Supreme Court Decides
Today to Hear Case That Could Terminate Federal Guns-for-Felons Program
VPC Research Led
to End of Funding For Program That Armed Terrorist, Murderer, Rapists,
And Child Molesters
Violence Policy Center (VPC) today hailed the U.S. Supreme Court's decision
to hear a case that could put an end to a federal program that allows
convicted felons to own guns. The case could terminate once and for all
the federal "relief from disability" guns-for-felons program. The Court
agreed to hear the case of Thomas Lamar Bean, a Texas gun show promoter
who lost his ability to possess firearms after a conviction for illegally
transporting ammunition into Mexico. Since 1992, Congress has barred funding
for the federal "relief from disability" program, the only mechanism authorized
by Congress to restore gun privileges to felons convicted under federal
law. As a result, convicted felons have attempted to use the federal courts
to circumvent the funding ban. Despite Congress' desire to defund the
program, Mr. Bean had his firearm privileges restored in a controversial
ruling by a federal judge.
by the Violence Policy Center in 1991 led to the congressional funding
prohibition. The VPC investigated some of the criminals whose firearm
privileges were restored by the "relief from disability" program. Based
on 100 case files obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the federal agency
charged with administering the program, a VPC study, Putting Guns Into
Criminals' Hands, found that 41 percent of the crimes sampled involved:
crimes of violence (16 percent), drug distribution or possession (17 percent),
or firearm violations (eight percent). The crimes of violence included
five sexual assaults, four homicides (three of which were vehicular),
and five robberies involving weapons. The Violence Policy Center also
released a report in 2000 entitled Guns for Felons: How the NRA Works
to Rearm Criminals which details the courts' involvement in this controversy
and the NRA's defense of the program.
The VPC worked with
members of Congress, including Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Charles
Schumer (D-NY), and Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), to shut the program
down through the appropriations process. "It was and still remains the
clear, unequivocal intent of Congress that the guns-for-felons program
cease operation altogether," said VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand.
Yet two federal courts
have ruled that felons can bypass the federal "relief" program and obtain
restoration of firearm privileges through the courts. Five federal circuit
courts have rejected that argument. The Supreme Court will decide whether
felons may use the federal courts to have their firearm privileges restored.
The VPC will seek to assist the Supreme Court in considering the case
through submission of a friend-of-the-court brief.
VPC research revealed
that terrorist Jerome Sanford Brower was rearmed by the program in 1985.
Brower was convicted of conspiring to transport explosives to Libya in
furtherance of an international terrorism plot masterminded by former
CIA agents Edwin Wilson and Francis Terpil.
Adds Rand, "The NRA
claims to oppose the arming of felons, yet the organization has been the
leading defender of the guns-for-felons program."
obtained under the FOIA from ATF, the VPC also found that, of those granted
relief from 1985 to 1992, 69 were subsequently re-arrested for
crimes that included: attempted murder; first degree sexual assault; abduction/kidnapping;
child molestation; illegal possession of a machine gun; trafficking in
cocaine, LSD, and PCP; and, illegal firearms possession or carrying. Between
1985 and 1992, the guns-for-felons program cost taxpayers $21 million.
The Violence Policy Center is a
national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence
in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals.
The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research
on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related
death and injury.
Tuesday, January 22, 2002
Violence Policy Center
(202) 822-8200 x105