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Pardoned felon has right to own guns

RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina’s law banning convicted felons from possessing firearms doesn’t apply to a convicted kidnapper who served his time in prison and was later pardoned, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

“The plain and unambiguous language” of the law is that it “does not apply to individuals who have been pardoned,” Judge Donna Stroud wrote for the three-judge appeals panel.

Lee Franklin Booth’s gun rights were restored with his pardon by former Gov. Jim Hunt in 2001, the court said. Booth had been convicted of second-degree kidnapping in Craven County in 1981 and released on parole four years later.

Booth, 54, tried to start a gun-making business in 2007, but was blocked from getting the needed federal license because regulators interpreted North Carolina’s felony firearms law to mean he couldn’t own a weapon.

The law doesn’t specify any type of pardon, so all of the types North Carolina governors can issue apply, the court ruled. That countered an argument by state attorneys defending the North Carolina law and arguing Booth was barred from gun ownership.

“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 to pardons in general,” Stroud wrote.

The gun ban was expanded in 2004 to reduce the dangers of domestic violence. The earlier version had barred felons only from owning or possessing pistols and short-barreled weapons that were easier to conceal.

The state Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that a Moore County man with a series of drug convictions and taking indecent liberties with a child stretching over nearly a quarter of a century couldn’t argue his constitutional right to own guns was violated. The high court ruled in 2009 that the ban didn’t apply to a Wake County man convicted of felony drug possession in 1979 whose gun rights were later restored.

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