Friday, October 26, 2007

what's not a felony these days?

In my admittedly idealistic view, there ought to be only two felonies: laying a hand on someone, and messing with someone's stuff. That's the entirety of the penal code in my perfect society--lots of paper saved, and those two offenses cover everything from murder to rape to thievery of all kinds.

Unfortunately, our society has embarked on a quest to brand as many citizens with the mark of the felon as possible. All manners of things are now felonies, and the list grows longer every day. It's a felony to grow the wrong kind of plant in your yard, to affix the wrong kind of metal bit to the end of your rifle, to buy too many cigarettes in North Carolina if you're a resident of Tennessee, and a myriad of other ridiculous things.

The problem with that, as I've already mentioned on numerous occasions, is that the status of "felon" has some serious negative repercussions for a person. A convicted felon loses, among other things, his or her constitutional right to own a firearm. (I'm not exactly sure why we take away the legal guns from felons, but not their right to worship as they please, or their right not to be placed in double jeopardy, or their right to free speech. Looks like the Brady Bunch is right when they claim that the Second Amendment is somehow more dangerous than the other ones, and deserves to be subject to special restrictions.) Convicted felons also lose their right to vote, and the stigma of a felony record has a way of crippling a person economically, since many employers in all but the most menial career fields will shy away from hiring a felon.

So, once you brand someone with the big "F" on their forehead, you deprive them of the legal right to self-defense, the right to vote, and the unhindered ability to work for a living to the best of their qualifications. That's a pretty severe punishment, and it ought to be reserved for some pretty serious crime. Hell, I'd settle for actual crime, and not the kinds of victimless crimes that are crowding the penal codes at present. A man stealing another's property--that's a crime. A man screwing a metal bit with some holes in it to the muzzle of his rifle, or growing funny tobacco in his garden--that's not a crime, because you can't point out a victim.

Here's the danger inherent in expanding the Big Catalog of Felonies willy-nilly. If I want to disarm folks and then take away their ability to vote against my policies, I don't need to try and take on the Second Amendment head-on. All I have to do is expand the definition of "felon" enough, and I can take the legal right to self-defense--and the right to vote--from anyone. And the great thing about that scheme is that the same law-and-order crowd that would fight me tooth and nail if I did attack the Sacred Second directly will actually assist me with glee.

No comments:

Post a Comment