A number of states are making it easier for convicted felons to regain their gun-ownership rights after being released from prison. The results often are deadly:
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 a brief 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 had given to a friend for safekeeping.
The National Rifle Association, not surprisingly, supports making it easier for convicted felons to have their gun rights restored.