Saturday, January 5, 2008

Redemption And Other Quandaries

The case of Osvaldo Hernandez raises several sorts of issues.

The 25 year old from Queens will soon satisfy his tour of duty as an Army paratrooper. When he returns, he wishes to serve in the New York Police Department.

He will not be allowed to do so.

Five years ago, when he was 20 and living in the dangerous neighborhood of Elmhurst, he believed that a gun offered protection. Rather than register for legal possession, he took obtained one from a friend, and stashed it under the seat of his car.

Which is where an officer found it after a traffic stop.

Hernandez served a stretch in prison for the Class D Felony, during which he became convinced that the Army was the life for him. He served his time and enlisted, and by all accounts served very well during a long tour of combat duty.

New York absolutely forbids any person with a felony conviction from serving in the NYPD. It does not matter what the nature of the felony was. There is no statute of limitations, nor any mitigating factors. It is an immovable object.

While deciding how we feel about that, we might give passing thought to the nature of the felony. For his own protection, Hernandez was carrying a firearm. He had not used the weapon for any reason, let alone for a crime. He was merely protecting himself in a high crime area.

Some believe that the Second Amendment confers an absolute right to carry arms. Some believe that local governments can pass restrictions for the common good. There are merits to both views.

It is, however, sad that a person's only crime was to be armed, and that the crime of being armed was not serious enough to prevent him from being armed for his country, but was serious enough to deny him any chance of being armed for his city.

I keep thinking that the lesson is: just stay in the Army. They appreciate you.

The NYTimes has the story:

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