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Presumption of ability

April 11, 2013 - Rob Weaver
There is an effort in our nation's capital to subject more firearms purchases to federal checks. How could someone oppose background checks for all transactions involving firearms? After all, proponents say it would make it more difficult for criminals and mentally ill individuals to get weapons.

There are folks who oppose similar restrictions — or, at least, should. Likewise, logic would indicate those who support universal background checks also must favor requiring stringent verification in order to exercise other rights.

But I doubt everyone who favors FBI criminal checks for firearm purchasers also necessarily favors mandating that voters produce government-issued photo IDs before casting ballots. And some folks who favor voter ID laws probably object to background checks.

Any procedure that assumes a person is ineligible to exercise a right -- whether to vote or keep and bear arms -- until that person can prove eligibility would seem to violate a basic tenet of criminal law. Yet I find it interesting that the presumption of innocence is not expressly stated in the U.S. Constitution or its amendments but considered to be supported by the Fifth, Sixth and 14th Amendments.

 
 

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