Suppose I am convicted of securities fraud, insider trading, and a host of other crimes. My fraud was clear, and it was very damaging. The amounts involved were in the 10s of billions and some people lost their life savings.
Let’s imagine that, while I am in prison, I am not allowed access to the internet. While this is clearly a violation of my Constitutional rights (freedom of speech, freedom of assembly), I am after all in prison. It is well accepted that by committing a serious crime, and having been convicted, I am no longer entitled to certain rights protected by the Constitution.
What about as a condition of parole? Perhaps a little more constitutionally squishy, but probably still very defensible. As a parolee, I am still within the prison system and still subject to the curtailment of rights which my conviction has earned me.
What after I am released from parole? Now, this is starting to look like a genuine violation of my Constitutional rights, as well as my non-enumerated natural rights. Freedom to communicate, freedom of speech (in the constitutional sense) and the freedom to earn a living are all being restricted, despite the fact that I have been punished and/or rehabilitated. While society does treat ex-convicts differently from the never-convicted, basic human rights, such as the right to vote, are not curtailed.
Let’s change the scenario again. Imagine there is a law that says that no person convicted of securities fraud may have access to internet in prison, or on parole, or possibly for life. At each step, I’m sure I’m losing some support as compared to the previous example. After all, not all perpetrators of securities fraud used the internet to do so. And not all are likely to commit further crimes given the opportunity. Finally, it’s worth pointing out that even in the original case, where we’ve established that I’m a risk whenever I’m on the internet, I can still commit crimes even without the internet. I can use the phone, I can use in-person meetings. The law may be unreasonable/unfair. The law may be unconstitutional. Add to which, the law may be fairly ineffective.
Now let’s change it one last time. Imagine that we pass the law above, but all felons are now prohibited from using the internet. Perhaps as a condition of parole. Perhaps for life.
I think most of us would consider this a serious violation of rights. After all, for most felons, the use of the internet is unrelated to their crime.
When it comes to gun laws, one area that is commonly accepted is that criminals shouldn’t be allowed guns. Why should that be such a given?
Particularly if the use of firearms is unrelated to the original crime, does it make sense to restrict a constitutional right for life? Is that reasonable punishment? Is society even served by this?
It is repeated, perhaps overly so, that criminals don’t follow [gun] laws. It does seem unlikely that a felon, intent upon committing a crime with a gun, would be much deterred by legal restrictions on gun possession.
It’s likely a third rail of politics, but the “prohibited person” restriction on gun ownership could be relaxed while both serving the interest of justice and not endangering public safety in any significant way.