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North Carolina Court of Appeals Rules Pardoned Felon May Bear Arms
On Tuesday, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that Franklin Booth, a convicted felon later pardoned by Gov. Jim Hunt by an officially issued Pardon of Forgiveness cannot be prohibited from bearing arms under the state’s gun control laws.
The case is doubly interesting, because originally, the lawsuit sparked off following a denial by state authorities to Booth’s application for a license to manufacture guns. The state authorities concluded that as according to NC’s gun control laws a convicted felon does not have the rights to bear firearms, then he could not also have the rights to manufacture firearms.
North Carolina has two types of pardons – a Pardon of Innocence which clears the persons records and restores innocent status (thus absolving the charges against him), and a Pardon of Forgiveness (the one issued in Booth’s case) which commutes sentences and sets a person free.
The state lawyers argued that since Booth received a Pardon of Forgiveness, he was not absolved of charges brought against him, and was still in the position of a previously convicted felon – thus prohibited from bearing firearms.
However, the NC Court of Appeals reasoned that in this particular case, the Felony Firearms Act did not apply, as the word “pardon” as used in the statute was not qualified.
The court observed, “It is true that there are different types of pardons, but the word “pardon” in North Carolina General Statute § 14-415.1(d) is not modified by any adjective or other descriptive phrase and thus includes all types of pardons.”
Writing for the three-judge panel, Judge Donna Stroud wrote “The plain and unambiguous language [of the law] does not apply to individuals who have been pardoned.”
Stroud added, “We note that in various other statutes our legislature does specify that particular types of pardons have different consequences, but here the legislature chose not to modify the word “pardon” but instead spoke of pardons in general.”
Booth had been convicted of non-aggravated kidnapping, but was pardoned in 2001.