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Jeff Brandes amendment would give felons gun rights

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A restoration of civil rights bill got an amendment from St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes that would give convicts the right to own guns after completing their sentence.

SB 934, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Perry Thurston, would automatically restore all other civil rights, such as the right to vote, when a felon completes their sentence, but specifically carves out the right to own firearms.

Thurston argues in the bill that automatic restoration helps felons reintegrate into society and takes some weight off the “cumbersome, costly” process of executive clemency.

Brandes’ amendment removes the portion of the bill carving out gun ownership and would automatically restore gun ownership rights so long as the felon was not convicted of murder, aggravated manslaughter of a child, sexual battery, incest, child sex abuse or human trafficking.

Executive clemency is currently the only way felons can have their civil rights restored. To gain clemency, felons must apply and go before the governor and the Cabinet to plead their case for restoration. If a majority of the four-member panel approves, rights are restored.

Having the right to own firearms restored requires a separate application.

Florida had a more streamlined system for restoring civil rights under former Gov. Charlie Crist, who allowed non-violent offenders to regain their rights without a hearing, resulting in about 150,000 restorations during his term as governor.

Gov. Rick Scott ended that practice when he took office in 2011, and through his first term granted restoration to just 1,550 felons.

SB 934 goes before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee Monday at 1:30 pm.

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

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