For Release: Friday, October 8, 2004
New Jersey Senators Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg Sponsor Bill to End Program that Rearmed Thousands of Felons at Taxpayer Expense
Washington, DC – The Violence Policy Center (VPC) today hailed the introduction of legislation to finally end the federal “relief from disability” guns-for-felons program, which was operated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Congress defunded the National Rifle Association-backed program in 1992 following release of the Violence Policy Center study Putting Guns Back Into Criminals’ Hands. The study revealed that tens of millions of taxpayer dollars had been spent to rearm thousands of convicted, often violent, felons some of whom went on to commit new crimes. Successful applicants included felons such as Jerome Sanford Brower, who in 1981 pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport explosives in foreign commerce in furtherance of an international terrorist plot. Brower’s gun privileges were restored by ATF in 1985. Each year since the release of the VPC study, Congress has renewed the funding bar.
With the program de-funded, some felons sought to use the courts to regain their gun privileges. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in United States v. Thomas Lamar Bean that the federal guns-for-felons program could not be revived by federal judges. In the case, U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson filed a brief with the Supreme Court opposing attempts by federal courts to revive the program. In the brief, Olson stated, that if the program were reinstated by the courts, that there would be “a significant risk that persons who pose a real danger to public safety might be rearmed.”
VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, “This program needs to be shut down once and for all. Currently, Congress must renew the funding bar every year. The gun lobby has made several attempts to revive this dangerous program. The Supreme Court had to step in to quash attempts by federal courts to grant felons `relief’ under the program. It’s time for Congress to eliminate it.”