Imagine serving your country honorably in the Army for two decades and then realizing that you have less rights than other citizens due to a misdemeanor cannabis conviction from high school. And the misdemeanor conviction is so old that the state where the "offense" occurred can't even find the records of the conviction. Ron Kelly is currently living through such a ridiculous farce.
Ron Kelly, a 20-year Army veteran, recently tried to buy a .22-caliber rifle at the Wal-Mart in Tomball, Texas. He was turned away because he failed the FBI background check. He appealed the rejection, and last month he got a Justice Department letter explaining that he was legally disqualified from owning guns, after handling them in defense of his country for two decades, because of a 42-year-old marijuana conviction. As a high school student in Durham, North Carolina, he had been caught with a small amount of pot and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession, receiving a sentence of probation because he was a first-time offender. The probation lasted a year, but according to the Justice Department the ensuing loss of Kelly's Second Amendment rights lasts a lifetime. "I am ashamed of the way my government has treated me," Kelly told The Houston Chronicle. "The government may have the greatest of intentions with the [law], but they messed it up."
Kelly's disqualification may in fact be unjustified under current law, which bars gun sales to people convicted of felonies but not misdemeanors (except for misdemeanors involving domestic violence). Unless the feds are treating what North Carolina called a misdemeanor as a felony for some reason, Kelly's pot conviction should not be covered by that provision. The only other disqualifier that seems possibly relevant is the one for anybody who is "an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance," but more than a 1971 conviction for possession should be required to demonstrate that Kelly falls into that category.
More on this shameful story from News Radio 600 KOGO:
The outraged veteran, who spent two decades of his life using firearms to defend his country, has since reached out to U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) for help in resolving the issue. He says he'd be happy with a waiver so he can regain his right to own a firearm.
As an infantryman in the Army, Kelly has fired "perhaps 100,000 rounds of government ammo over his 20 years of service," Schiller notes.
Meanwhile, officials in North Carolina, where he was born and raised, were unable to even find records of the conviction because it is so old.
This unfortunate story is just yet another example of the failed and futile policy of cannabis prohibition. A simple misdemeanor conviction can follow someone throughout their life, denying them educational and employment opportunities, as well as some constitutional rights. Unfortunately, ridiculous stories such as these will only continue occurring until we end cannabis prohibition once and for all.