Friday, December 12, 2008

President's pardons have common thread: guns

From the Gainsville Sun, on President Bush's recent pardons:
On the surface, the list of the 14 people pardoned by the president this week shows few common denominators in terms of time served, geographic location or even type of crime, except that the felonies were non-violent. But a closer look at some of the newly pardoned shows many of them are church-going, blue-collar workers from rural areas (and ardent Bush supporters) who had little trouble finding jobs after their convictions. There is another common thread: the important role firearms once played in their lives.

President Bush has pardoned fewer people — 171 — than any president since World War II, with the exception of his father, who pardoned 74. Presidents don't discuss their reasons for issuing pardons, with few exceptions. Nor do they tell petitioners why their wish was granted. The Justice Department's "pardon attorney," who reviews hundreds of petitions a year and recommends candidates to the president, had no comment.

Coincidentally or not, at least seven of the 14 pardoned on Monday are former hunters or shooting enthusiasts. In interviews, five of them said they wrote in their petitions to the government that a desire to win back the right to bear arms was a chief reason for wanting a pardon.
Convicted felons lose a host of civil rights, including the right to vote, seek political office or bear arms. A presidential pardon forgives federal crimes and restores basic rights.

Many felons can win back some rights from their states after they complete their punishment. But the right to possess guns can be restored only by the president, says Margaret Love, a former pardon attorney under the first President Bush and the first term of President Clinton, who pardoned 396, mostly during his second term. (Felons are allowed to possess certain antique guns, she says.)

Before applying for a pardon, an individual must wait five years after serving prison time or home confinement and must have finished probation or supervised release. The president can exercise his or her clemency powers at any time, even if the felon hasn't formally applied.

Petitioners must show they've led an upstanding life since their conviction and accepted responsibility for their actions with remorse, according to the Justice Department.

The whole process can take years, and the odds are long. Through the end of October, President Bush had pardoned 7 percent of applicants during his term, department statistics show. There is a backlog of several thousand applications.

Article here. The article also provides an overview of the pardon process.

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