Convicted Felon Sues State Over Right To Bear Arms
By Nicole Ferguson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A Franklin man is suing the state of Tennessee for not honoring a pardon allowing him the right to bear arms.
David Scott Blackwell received a felony charge for drug possession in 1988, when he was 20 years old.
"I was young and dumb and moved from a small town in Mississippi and got involved with the wrong crowd in Atlanta," said Blackwell. "I'd sold some cocaine to an undercover officer. Boom - I went to prison, went to jail."
After serving his sentence and earning a bachelor's degree in nursing, the father said he petitioned the state of Georgia for a pardon, including the restoration of the right to bear arms, which was granted on August 11, 2003.
Blackwell ran into a problem in Tennessee.
"Wanted to go hunting about two years ago and went to purchase a little .22 rifle for my son, and was denied," said Blackwell.
After two years of going back and forth with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Attorney General's office, Blackwell decided to file a declaratory relief lawsuit against the State of Tennessee, Governor Phil Bredesen and Attorney General Bob Cooper.
The lawsuit was filed in Davidson County Chancery Court on Thursday morning, and served to the state later that afternoon. Cooper's office had no comment on the lawsuit, but said they are in the process of reviewing it.
"It is just amazing to me that if you have a pardon, a full pardon that specifically gives you restoration of rights that the attorney general can say 'no, you're not a person. You have no rights. You don't have the same rights as anyone else,'" said Blackwell's attorney David Raybin.
"According to the attorney general, even if the governor of Tennessee pardoned a person in Tennessee, that wouldn't help them," continued Raybin. "Under the attorney general's opinion, there's no power on the planet that can restore his right to have a firearm and I reject that. I think that's wrong."
"We call it a Department of Corrections, not a Department of Punishment," said Blackwell. "We all want people to be corrected in their behavior, but there has to be that touchdown, that goal line that somebody can attain to become a citizen again."
The state has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit. Depending on the response, a judge will set a hearing date which most likely will not happen for a few months.