An Army veteran in Texas is fighting for his Second Amendment rights after learning that a misdemeanor pot conviction from 1971 has disqualified him from ever owning a gun.
Ron Kelly, who retired from the Army in 1993 after 20 years of service, was recently turned away when he tried to buy a .22-cal rifle at a Wal-Mart in Tomball, Texas, after a computerized background check flagged the 42-year-old arrest. The story was on the front page of the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday.
Kelly said he had forgotten about his minor pot violation from high school — the federal government, on the other hand, has not.
The Army vet spent one night in jail and was given one year of probation. Though he didn’t realize it at the time, he was also apparently stripped of his Second Amendment rights for a lifetime.
“According to the FBI, which runs the background checks known as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the law states that a person can be prevented from owing a gun if they are convicted of a misdemeanor in which they could spend more than two years behind bars,” the Houston Chronicle’s Dane Schiller writes.
“I am ashamed of the way my government has treated me,” Kelly told the Chronicle. “The government may have the greatest of intentions with the [law], but they messed it up.”
The outraged veteran, who spent two decades of his life using firearms to defend his country, has since reached out to U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) for help in resolving the issue. He says he’d be happy with a waiver so he can regain his right to own a firearm.
As an infantryman in the Army, Kelly has fired “perhaps 100,000 rounds of government ammo over his 20 years of service,” Schiller notes.
Meanwhile, officials in North Carolina, where he was born and raised, were unable to even find records of the conviction because it is so old.
The story is reminiscent of two others on TheBlaze in recent years. In 2011, we brought you a story from Ohio where a man faced felony weapons charges because he obtained a gun after having a misdemeanor marijuana charge in 2006:
Back in 2006, Paul Stone was convicted of simple marijuana possession, a “minor misdemeanor” under Ohio law. There is no jail time possible for the offense. The maximum penalty is a $150 fine, plus some community service. It is not treated as a criminal record for the purposes of employment or licensing questions about an individual’s past. But in Ohio, the legislature has placed a specific limit on the 2nd amendment related to substance possession. Specifically, Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.13 prohibits gun possession by any person who “has been convicted of any offense involving the illegal possession … in any drug of abuse.”
In February, we reported on Navy vet Jeff Schrader, whose story closely resembles that of Kelly’s. Schrader, too, was convicted of misdemeanor as a young man (for a fight). He paid a $109 fine and went on with his life. But when he tried to buy a gun 45 years later, the law had changed: the misdemeanor penalty for his crime back then, now caries with it a possible penalty of up to two or more years in jail. Because of that, he has been disqualified from owning a gun.
This story has been updated.