New bill aims to give felons in Florida another chance to own guns, vote

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. (WSVN) - A new bill in the Florida Legislature aims to make it easier to restore a felon’s rights to vote and own guns after they have served time for their crimes.

Felons in the Sunshine State are currently prohibited from owning firearms or voting. In order for a felon to earn back his or her right to vote and own a firearm, the person must be pardoned or have the Office of Executive Clemency restore their rights, WJXT reports.

House Bill 903, or the “Economic Redemption and Restoration of Constitutional Rights Act”, was filed in the state House of Representatives last week by Republican Rep. Cord Byrd from Neptune Beach. If passed, the bill would give convicted felons the chance to petition local courts once a year for their rights to be restored after they have completed their sentences, rather than wait years for a board to make that determination.

The Office of Executive Clemency board is comprised of a four-member panel, and Byrd says the amount of pending applications is just too great to overcome.

“Currently, the average wait time for Restoration of Rights is over 9 years, with some as long as 11 years,” Byrd wrote on his Facebook page. “Over 22,000 applications are pending, with only a few hundred being processed each year. Clearly the system is broken.”

The bill’s detractors, however, point out that judges already have backlogs of their own, and adding felon petitions into the mix would only move the problem away from the clemency board and into the justice system.

HB 903 is not the only effort being made on behalf of felons. According to WJXT, the Constitutional Revision Commission is considering an amendment to the state’s constitution, which would automatically restore non-violent felons’ voting rights after they’ve served their sentences.

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