It must be hard for someone used to power and privilege not only to go to prison but then face a loss of rights upon their release. Such is the case with former Congressman and current inmate Randall “Duke” Cunningham. Next year, Cunningham will finish the 100 month sentence he’s serving for bribery, fraud and other misdeeds committed while he served as part of California’s delegation to the House of Representatives.
Cunningham, who had to forfeit a lavish home as part of the plea deal has said he plans to live in a cabin in the Ozark Mountains following his June 2013 release from prison. Reflecting that choice of domicile, Mr. Cunningham would like to make generous use of Second Amendment rights in order to provide both food and protection for himself. As described in a letter he sent to the judge who sentenced him, Larry Alan Burns, “[Cunningham] will live in a very remote part of Arkansas and not much threat from people but they do have a lot of black bears, cougars, and history of rabies.” The problem, however, is that convicted felons like Cunningham are typically prohibited from possessing firearms.
Cunningham, who despite the fact that he pled guilty to numerous charges that he could have fought in court seems to see his situation as a shameful example of how the country treats veterans rather than the result of any misconduct on his own part, wrote to Judge Burns earlier this month to request permission to own and use guns after his release. In a very thoughtful response, Judge Burns explained that he had no authority to grant this request and went on to explain the avenues available to inmate 94405198 and the obstacles he’s likely to face in a way that the former congressman should appreciate more than most.
“You should be aware, however, that every year since 1992, Congress has refused to provide funding to the ATF to review applications from the federal firearm ban. And the United States Supreme Court has ruled that inaction by the ATF does not amount to “denial” of the application within the meaning of section 925(c) United States v. Bean 537 US 71, 75 (2002). So unless Congress changes course and decides to fund ATF’s review of applications for relief, it appears you are stuck.”