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Guns for Felons: How the NRA Works To Rearm Criminals

NCJ Number
Kristen Rand; Josh Sugarmann; Caroline Leedy
Date Published
March 2000
19 pages
This analysis of the role of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in relation to laws related to the purchase and possession of guns by convicted felons concludes that the NRA has worked to put guns back into criminals' hands, despite its claims that it supports vigorous enforcement of gun laws and efforts to keep criminals from owning guns.
Federal law forbids persons convicted of a felony from purchasing or possessing firearms and explosives. However, a 1965 amendment to Federal law allows convicted felons to apply to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) for relief from the disability of not being able to buy and possess guns. The program was created to benefit one corporation. It quickly became a mechanism by which thousands of individuals had their gun privileges restored. A law supported by the National Rifle Association expanded the program in 1986 to allow felons convicted of gun crimes to obtain relief. Operating the relief-from-disability program cost taxpayers more than $21 million between 1985 and 1991. In addition, some felons granted relieve were subsequently rearrested for crimes that included attempted murder, first-degree sexual assault, kidnapping, child molestation, cocaine trafficking, and other offenses. The history of the guns-for-felons programs proves the NRA's blatant hypocrisy. The NRA calls for tougher enforcement of gun laws and strong punishment for criminals, but it has worked harder to rearm convicted felons than it ever has to keep guns out of criminals' hands. Therefore, Congress should eliminate this program. Table, footnotes, and appended table and information about crimes involving felons granted relief from disability