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No, Simply Possessing a Firearm Does Not Make Someone Violent

The debate across the nation rages concerning gun control. Presidential candidates have gone as far as calling for the seizure of certain weapons, and attacked gun manufacturers, resellers, and law-abiding citizens. As a conservative and a resident of the Sportsman’s Paradise, I am an ardent supporter of the 2nd Amendment, and I roundly reject any implications that those of us who exercise our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms are predisposed to violence.

That being said, there are certain restrictions to a person’s right to own or possess a firearm. For instance, as a general rule, felons lose their right to possess a firearm—and it’s actually a felony itself that carries a 5 to 20-year sentence if they violate this prohibition. There is legislation currently pending before the Louisiana Legislature would enhance the nature of a felon-in-possession sanction by designating the mere possession of a firearm as a crime of violence. A “crime of violence” is as follows:

…an offense that has, as an element, the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, and that, by its very nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense or an offense that involves the possession or use of a dangerous weapon.

This legislation proposes to add a person-in-possession of a firearm who has previously been convicted of certain felonies (including many drug crimes) to the list of enumerated crimes of violence meeting the above definition. For context, an individual who was convicted of a felony drug crime years ago and violates the prohibition by possessing a firearm for home protection, or uses a rifle to go hunting, would be designated a violent criminal under this legislation. Granted, such an action is a violation of the law and legal recourse must be taken. However, is the simple act of possessing a firearm, without some additional factor tying the possession to the commission of a crime or threat, a crime of violence?

When reviewing this legislation, my initial concern—as a conservative and a gun owner—is that it lends itself to the progressive narrative that folks who carry a firearm are inherently violent people. That is not further from the truth. I possess a firearm for both home protection and to hunt; neither fact impugns my character. With that said, if the possession of a firearm in the home, or the act of hunting with a rifle is not violent, it does not become an act of violence simply due to a previous and unrelated felony conviction. Unless it is used or its use is threatened against a person, the possession of a firearm does not “by its very nature involve a substantial risk” that it will be used to harm or perpetrate a crime.

Moreover, I am concerned that slapping the “act of violence” label to further an agenda will broaden, and ultimately dilute, our true understanding of what an act of violence actually is and the impact such actions have on real victims of violence. Call me old fashioned, but I think an act of violence should actually be a violent act.

Louisiana already imposes a strict criminal sanction for felons who illegally possess a firearm, with a maximum 20-year sentence and a mandatory minimum of 5 years. In fact, Louisiana is already more strict than our fellow southern states in addressing this issue. For example:  Alabama – up to 10 years; Arkansas – up to 6 years; Mississippi – from 1 – 10 years; Oklahoma – from 1-10 years; Texas – from 2-10 years; Tennessee – from 1-6 years; Kentucky – from 1-10 years; Georgia from 1-5 years; and lastly Florida – up to 15 years (or life in certain cases).

I do agree there should be a criminal consequence if a felon breaks the law and possesses a firearm. However, to be violent, there must an intent to use the firearm to perpetrate a crime or to threaten harm. I fail to see how the mere possession of a firearm in a glove compartment, bedside table, or safe—the same manner law-abiding citizens possess their firearms—is inherently violent. To suggest otherwise, hits too close to home for this gun owner.

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