September 19, 2020

Attack the Facts Not the Innocent

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Two states this morning, Montana and Delaware, are reporting that hunting licenses are being sold to convicted felons. There are people in both states that are angry and upset that this is happening. The problem is they don’t understand the laws or the sport and refuse to face facts.

Montana has turned up some 660 licenses known to have been sold to convicted felons but in their still on going investigation, the vast majority of them are hunting with bow and arrow. The rest they are working with parole officers in determining if violations of parole or probation has occured and remedying the problem.
In Delaware, a felon who was hunting, discharged his firearm, which of course is illegal for him to possess, and the bullet went through the windshield of a passing motorist stiking him in the head injuring him. The victim is sueing everybody, including his own mother (not really, I’m making a point.

First let’s clarify the law and then we’ll discuss the lawsuit. It is unlawful for a felon, to be in possession of a firearm. But in nearly every state and it may be all of them, it is not illegal for a convicted felon to purchase and hunting license. Why? Many felons take up hunting with bow and arrow and that is perfectly legal. Also, nearly every state has no means to check whether the person they are selling a license to is a felon. If they did, it is still legal to sell them a hunting license. That is why they don’t.
If the citizens of this country want to change the laws so that convicted felons can’t hunt, then they should persue that endeavor. Personally, I think it’s a stupid idea and would solve nothing. I can guarantee that the felon in Delaware who was out hunting would be out hunting whether or not there was a law. That’s what criminals do.
So, on to the lawsuit. Anthony Higgins was the gentleman I spoke of who became the victim of an errant bullet supposedly fired from the rifle of a convicted felon possessing a valid hunting license.

The felon, Benjamin Walls III, 37, has a string of felony convictions on his resume. Here’s what an article in Delaware Online had to say about who Higgins was sueing.

Higgins, who narrowly escaped death, is suing Walls and other members of the hunting party, as well as the plumbing supply store that sold Walls a hunting license despite his failure to present proof of required hunter education training.

As part of the initial lawsuit, Higgins was also naming the owners of the land Walls was hunting on.

In an August ruling dismissing the owners of the land upon which Walls and his companions were hunting as defendants in the lawsuit

The judge who heard that part of the case and dismissed the land owners went on to say that it was against the law for Walls to buy a hunting license.

Superior Court Judge Joseph Slights wrote that “the parties appear to agree that Walls was ineligible for licensure because he was a convicted felon.”

What? The judge ruling in this case doesn’t know the law? Holy cow! The lawyer representing Higgins, Richard Diliberto, said that –

…that’s not the law. Nothing in the Delaware code prohibits Walls or any other felon from getting a hunting license.

That was confirmed also by James Graybeal, director of enforcement for the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

“In Delaware, it’s not illegal for you to buy a license because you’re a felon,” said James Graybeal, director of enforcement for the Division of Fish and Wildlife. “The breaking of the law comes when you are carrying a firearm when hunting, because that’s against the law.”

“Some of the police agencies, they can’t understand why we sell a license to a felon, and I try to make them understand that we don’t have the technological infrastructure set up to not allow it,”

Unless the laws are going to be changed to include the loss of being able to buy a hunting license, then the only recourse is to enforce the laws that already exist to stop felons from having a gun.

People and lawyers need to stop attacking the Fish and Wildlife Departments for not being able to control convicted felons. If the states want those issuing licenses to have all the necessary technology to run background checks on everyone who wants to buy a license, they need to be able to cough up the money to do it and not expect the hunters to foot the bill by paying higher license fees.

I’m sure none of us have heard the last of this. If this in any way can be used by the anti-hunting, anti-gun crowd to further demand taking our guns away, they will.

Tom Remington

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