Felons Should Be Stopped From Automatically Getting Their Gun Rights Back In North Dakota

marcus schumacher

UPDATE: Initially this post said I was the first to report that Schumacher could legally obtain a gun. Per the comments, it turns out I wasn’t. WDAY had the story on February 12. I missed that one.

Last week I reported that Marcus Schumacher, the man who shot Fargo police officer Jason Moszer, could legally obtain guns despite a previous felony conviction. The rodeo clowns at Valley News Live had initially reported that Schumacher may have petitioned to get his gun rights back – which is something you can do under North Dakota law – but there’s no evidence that Schumacher did this.

Rather, Schumacher’s gun rights were restored automatically ten years after his “debt to society” was paid for that previous felony.

Today the Fargo Forum editorial board calls for North Dakota to change the laws to prohibit felons from getting guns. At least one state lawmaker, state Rep. Blair Thoreson of District 44 in Fargo, is saying he’ll take up that cause in the Legislature if re-elected:

The editorial in today's Forum calls on the legislature to close the "loophole" which allows convicted felons to restore…

Posted by Blair Thoreson on Tuesday, February 23, 2016

I do think we need to make some changes for the law. When I interviewed Grand Forks defense attorney Tyler Morrow for my post last week he told me, “Our firearm laws are some of the worst laws we have as to ambiguity.”

That rings true to me. We can certainly take some of the ambiguity out of the law.

I’m fine with prohibiting gun ownership in the state for all people convicted of a felony, and even crimes less serious than a felony if they include violence. What I think we should preserve, however, is some discretion for the courts to restore those rights when appropriate.

House Bill 1209 from the 2011 legislative session created a process in the law through which felons can petition the court to get their gun rights back. It was sponsored by former Rep. Duane DeKrey, a Republican from Pettibone. Here’s the process the law lays out:

I think we could beef that up a bit by requiring notification of the law enforcement and state officials involved in the original conviction, not to mention the victims of the crime, so that they have a chance to weigh in on the convict getting his/her gun rights back.

Outside of that, I do think this process should exist, because our civil rights – up to and including the right to bear arms – are important and not all felonies are created equally. I think there should be room for prudent discretion in restoring gun rights.

But make that the only process by which felons can get their gun rights back. Those rights shouldn’t be restored automatically.