New push for non-violent felons to own guns

Posted at 7:39 PM, Mar 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-31 19:39:49-04

There's a new push to allow some convicted felons to buy and own guns.

A West Boca Raton attorney is suing the U.S. Attorney General and others saying Americans convicted of non-violent crimes should keep their second amendment right.

Before you walk out of the doors at RRPSI Firearms in Boynton Beach with a gun, Bob Renault has checked your background.

You can't own, buy, or possess a gun if you're a convicted felon. Renault said  he hears the excuses.

"I got my voting rights restored, why can't I buy a gun? It's not my call," Renault said.

Attorney Michael Zapin wants to change the rules for non-violent felons.

"Everybody knows the punishment should fit the crime," Zapin pointed out.

He filed a class action lawsuit this month. His uncle from Las Vegas is the lead plaintiff, more are still signing up.

Zapin said his uncle, Barry Michaels, served time in prison for fraud in the 1990's, but has been on the straight and narrow ever since.

"I often put him in the same boat as Martha Stewart," he said referring to the TV cooking show host who was convicted of insider trading. 

Zapin argued keeping guns out of the hands of an estimated 5,000,000 non-violent convicted felons, like his uncle and Stewart, is cruel and unusual punishment.

Zapin said he has no problems with current controls, checks and waiting periods for buying a firearm. But he said current laws aimed at preventing violence unfairly denies non-violent felons their guaranteed rights.

"I'm sure the law is snaring a lion's share of the folks it should ensnare," Zapin said. "The problem is what about rest where there is no nexus between their lives and the violence the statute seeks to protect against?"

Back at the gun store, Renault said this idea casts a large net. He'd rather see each case handled individually. There are clemency and pardoning processes for people to have their records cleared.

"Why should we make it blanket law that says okay all the drug dealers and other people with records one mile long should now be able to own a gun because they've been a good boy for the past five years," Renault asked.

Zapin admits he's still working on how to distinguish violent felons from non-violent and where felons with a drug history should land.

This lawsuit would change the laws on a nationwide level, but is a long way from going before a judge who will make that decision.

To see the court filing, and learn more about the class action suit, click here.