POLITICS
05/20/2016 06:53 pm ET

NRA's Wayne LaPierre Freaks Out About Ex-Felons Voting, Is Fine With Them Carrying Guns

Something about this seems hypocritical ...
In a speech Friday, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre railed against giving voting rights back to ex-offenders. His organization feels d
Bloomberg via Getty Images
In a speech Friday, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre railed against giving voting rights back to ex-offenders. His organization feels differently about restoring their gun ownership rights.

National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre took aim Friday at moves to restore voting rights to people with past felony convictions -- an absurd argument, since the NRA helps former felons restore their gun rights.

LaPierre told the organization's annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, that Democrats are "even allowing felons the right to vote, including violent rapists and murderers." 

"Tentacles of the Clinton machine are out registering those felons right now," he said. "They're releasing them, and then they're registering them. Heck, when they sign their release papers, they might as well at the prison door ... give 'em a Hillary Clinton bumper sticker." 

LaPierre characterized recent moves by Democrats in Maryland and Virginia to allow ex-offenders to vote as dangerously crooked political maneuvers.

But when it comes to giving those same people the right to own a gun, the NRA takes a different position.

The NRA, the largest gun-rights group, has fought for decades to make it easier for ex-offenders to restore their gun rights, even though federal law holds that people convicted of felonies are barred from bearing arms. In some cases, NRA lobbying has made it easier for ex-felons convicted of violent crimes to legally purchase guns.

The NRA was a key supporter of the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, which contained a provision allowing felons convicted of gun crimes and other violent offenses to petition to have their gun rights restored. A review by the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit that studies the effects of gun regulations, found a number of instances in which violent ex-felons had been given "relief" to own a firearm, only to be arrested on charges of commiting another violent crime.

Congress removed funding from that program in 1992, against the protests of the NRA.

"There's no reason why a person who has demonstrated they are now a good citizen should be deprived of their right to own a firearm," NRA representative Richard Gardiner told The Washington Post before the vote. "We ought to recognize that some people can change."

In recent years, the NRA and other gun-rights advocates have shifted their focus to nonviolent ex-felons.

The process for restoring gun rights to ex-offenders varies by state. Congress, however, has made the process more burdensome by blocking funding for the Justice Department to process applications. Last year, the House passed an amendment that would have provided funds to ensure that more ex-offenders who were prohibited from buying guns could apply for restoration status.

"Those who have lost the right to purchase and obtain a firearm are now one step closer to being able to petition the government for a full restoration of those rights," the NRA wrote on Facebook.

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who sponsored the amendment (which eventually failed), said the measure was long past due.

"America is a land of second chances," Buck said in a floor speech. "One mistake should not define your future."

For people like LaPierre, however, that spirit of redemption apparently only applies to people who want firearms, not those who want to participate in democracy.

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