This article by the New York Times highlights the incidence of armed domestic violence in the US and reveals the ease with which criminals can retrieve their rights to possess and carry firearms, even with a criminal record and a history of domestic violence.

The article, along with a video and an interactive feature comprising of court records, contains a great deal of useful information for those of us working on the Disarm Domestic Violence campaign.

The Times examined hundreds of cases where gun rights were restored to criminals, in several states, among them Minnesota, where William James Holisky II, who had a history of stalking and terrorising women, got his gun rights back last year, just six months after completing a three-year prison sentence for firing a shotgun into the house of a woman who had broken up with him after a handful of dates. She and her son were inside at the time of the shooting.

Video: Restoring Gun Rights to Felons

This video shows how several criminals with a history of domestic violence were able to recover their rights to possess and carry firearms and went on to commit more acts of armed domestic violence.

Interactive Feature: Felons and Guns

The Times examined data from courts across the US on convicted criminals who had their firearms rights reinstated and reviewed hundreds of pages of documents associated with those cases. In many instances, people who got their gun rights back went on to commit new crimes. Here are court records associated with several people with convictions who had their firearms privileges restored, including several cases of armed domestic violence:

Felons Finding It Easy to Get Gun Rights Reinstated
By Michael Luo, New York Times, 13 November 2011

In February 2005, Erik Zettergren came home from a party after midnight with his girlfriend and another couple. They had all been drinking heavily, and soon the other man and Mr. Zettergren’s girlfriend passed out on his bed. When Mr. Zettergren went to check on them later, he found his girlfriend naked from the waist down and the other man, Jason Robinson, with his pants around his ankles.’

Enraged, Mr. Zettergren ordered Mr. Robinson to leave. After abrief confrontation, Mr. Zettergren shot him in the temple at point-blank range with a Glock-17 semiautomatic handgun. He then forced Mr. Robinson’s hysterical fiancée, at gunpoint, to help him dispose of the body in a nearby river.

It was the first homicide in more than 30 years in the small town of Endicott, in eastern Washington. But for a judge’s ruling two months before, it would probably never have happened.

For years, Mr. Zettergren had been barred from possessing firearms because of two felony convictions. He had a history of mental health problems and friends said he was dangerous. Yet Mr. Zettergren’s gun rights were restored without even a hearing, under a state law that gave the judge no leeway to deny the application as long as certain basic requirements had been met. Mr. Zettergren, then 36, wasted no time retrieving several guns he hadgiven to a friend for safekeeping.

“If he hadn’t had his rights restored, in this particular instance, it probably would have saved the life of the other person,” said Denis Tracy, the prosecutor in Whitman County, who handled the murder case.

Under federal law, people with felony convictions forfeit their right to bear arms. Yet every year, thousands of felons across the country have those rights reinstated, often with little or no review. In several states,they include people convicted of violent crimes, including first-degree murder and manslaughter, an examination by The New York Times has found.

While previously a small number of felons were able to reclaimtheir gun rights, the process became commonplace in many states in the late1980s, after Congress started allowing state laws to dictate these reinstatements — part of an overhaul of federal gun laws orchestrated by the National Rifle Association. The restoration movement has gathered force in recent years, as gun rights advocates have sought to capitalize on the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms.

This gradual pulling back of what many Americans have unquestioningly assumed was a blanket prohibition has drawn relatively little public notice. Indeed, state law enforcement agencies have scant information, if any, on which felons are getting their gun rights back, let alone how many have gone on to commit new crimes.

The full article is available here: