It’s upsetting to learn that the man accused of shooting and killing Jason Moszer, the Fargo police officer recently slain in the line of duty, was a convicted felon with a history of violent crimes – yet was allowed to have guns under state law. Marcus Schumacher was charged with murder and attempted murder in 1988. He ended up being sentenced to five years in prison for negligent homicide, and served four years. Because North Dakota law permits felons to have guns 10 years after serving their sentences, it became legal for Schumacher to possess weapons more than a dozen years ago.
It doesn’t appear Schumacher petitioned to be allowed to have guns after the 10-year period passed, according to a report by Forum News Service. Although Schumacher was not convicted of any felonies after serving his prison sentence for manslaughter, he pleaded guilty to a Class B misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct and was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation. Had Schumacher been convicted of a Class A misdemeanor, the law would have required him to petition to once again possess firearms. If anything, the disorderly conduct charge was another red flag of Schumacher’s unstable behavior – behavior that erupted so tragically Feb. 10 when he allegedly shot Moszer, one of the officers who responded to a domestic disturbance call. Schumacher had been terrorizing his family.
Those like Schumacher who have been convicted of violent felonies should not be able to petition for restoration of gun rights. Violent criminal activity puts a person in a high-risk category. Conviction for a violent felony crime should disqualify anyone from the right to bear arms, a right that comes with grave responsibilities. Under federal law, in fact, convicted felons cannot possess guns or ammunition, a ban that comes with a 10-year penalty for violators.
Banning convicted violent felons from owning guns would send a clear signal that society doesn’t condone such behavior. It would close a gaping hole in the background check system for potential gun owners, a system that should be strengthened to keep guns out of the wrong hands.
On Monday, thousands of Moszer’s fellow officers from around the country and other well-wishers attended his funeral, honoring him with a 21-mile procession. North Dakota should honor his memory by closing a loophole that his death so tragically exposed.
Editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.