From Reason Magazine:
Four months later, the governor grandly announced that he was restoring the voting rights of 206,000 felons. Republican heads exploded, and the ensuing debate eventually had to be settled by the Virginia Supreme Court, which struck down McAuliffe’s order, requiring him to continue making restorations on a case-by-case basis.
In the meantime, though, a question arose: What about gun rights? Although McAuliffe’s order stipulated that “nothing in this Order restores the right to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms,” the governor’s order made it much easier for a felon to get his gun rights back. Formerly, an offender first had to petition for restoration of his civil rights, and once they were restored, go to court to retrieve his gun rights. McAuliffe’s order eliminated the first step.
That was purely unintentional. “My actions were about giving you the right to vote, to serve on a jury and run for political office,” McAuliffe admitted. “My action, I didn’t think it had anything to do with gun rights. I stayed away from that.”
Since the Supreme Court decision, the governor has continued to restore felons’ rights on an individual basis; he’s up to 140,000 now. And lawmakers are introducing bills to make the process automatic. Along similar lines, Republican Del. Greg Habeeb has introduced a measure to automatically restore gun rights to nonviolent felons.
Anybody who supports restoring voting rights will be hard-pressed to produce a persuasive argument against Habeeb’s bill. Both voting and gun ownership are constitutionally protected, fundamental rights. The rationales that support restoring voting rights (e.g., the offender has paid his debt in full, African-Americans are disproportionately affected, the restriction has a sordid racial history, and so forth) apply with equal force to restoring gun rights.
Politicians of all stripes appear to have a deficit in foreseeing 2nd and 3rd order effects of their legislation. This time at least, the deficit is in favor of the Citizen.