Bill would allow Florida felons to petition court to have voting, gun rights restored

Two local lawmakers want to restore voting and gun rights to convicted felons.

Right now, those rights are denied to Florida felons unless the governor offers clemency.

Florida House Bill 903 would allow a convict who did his or her time to petition the court.

The restoration of rights would have to be approved by a judge.

HB 903 has two main sponsors, State Reps. Kim Daniels, D-Jacksonville, and Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach.

“Are you worried about pushback from your own party about the voting aspect of this, and the talk that may be about voter fraud?” Action News Jax reporter Russell Colburn asked Byrd.

“Before I'm a Republican, I'm a constitutionalist, and that's what my oath is to, is to the Constitution,” Byrd said.

Daniels isn't worried about pushback from her party over allowing convicted felons to own guns.

“What I've been focusing on is people who need a second chance getting that second chance, and I think it's a good thing that people who have paid the price, who can prove that their life is changed by going before a judge, and that's the difference,” Daniels said.

But Al Jordan, of the group MAD DADS, which stands for Men Against Destruction-Defending Against Drugs and Social-Disorder, disagrees.

Jordan brought up the case of Lisa and Ashlee Rucker, who police said were shot by Chad Absher in October. Absher is a convicted felon who allegedly got his hands on a gun.

Lisa survived the shooting. Her big sister Ashlee did not.

“That kind of guy doesn't need a gun, ever, ever again, but somehow he had one, so we don't want those kinds of people having guns,” Jordan said.

Action News Jax asked Byrd if the bill would apply to people convicted of murder.

“If they wanted to apply, they could certainly apply,” Byrd said. “I can't imagine that there's a judge in the state of Florida that would grant rights or restore rights to someone that was a violent felon or a former murderer.”

Byrd said for a felon to get voting and gun rights back, there would be a hearing and the state attorney's office could challenge them. He said a companion bill in the Florida Senate is already in the works.

If HB 903 passes, it would take effect in July 2018.