Army Veteran Can’t Buy Rifle Because of Pot Conviction 42 Years Ago

by Lindsey Grudnicki

Ron Kelly, a 59-year-old retired U.S Army soldier, made the front page of the Houston Chronicle Wednesday after he was denied permission to purchase a .22 caliber rifle at a Wal-Mart in Tomball, Texas. The veteran failed the FBI’s background check because he was charged with marijuana possession — in 1971.

Under the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a person can be prevented from buying a gun if they have been convicted of a misdemeanor for which they could serve two or more years in prison. While in high school, Kelly was busted with a small amount of marijuana and spent one night behind bars before he was sentenced to a year of probation. Such a record, under the federal law, prohibits him from exercising his Second Amendment rights.

Kelly, a native of Durham, North Carolina, enlisted as an infantryman two years after the incident that is currently keeping him from keeping a gun in his own home. “I went on to serve 20 years,” said Kelly. He finds it “amazing” that after firing two decades worth of government ammunition, “they won’t let me buy a gun for a misdemeanor 42 years ago.”

According to the Chronicle, more than 881,000 Texans have had their backgrounds checked so far this year as they attempt to purchase firearms or explosives and Kelly is “one of the very few to be rejected.” His case, however, is an example of the failings of the FBI’s electronic system. Ironically, the actual paperwork from Kelly’s arrest is so old that courthouse officials in Durham are having difficulty locating it so that Kelly can petition his rejection.

He has since contacted Representative Michael McCaul and Senator John Cornyn for assistance in the matter. “I am ashamed of the way my government has treated me,” Kelly said. With good reason.

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