A Felony On the Big Screen? By Tom Gresham Quick, someone call the ATF hotline (1-800-ATF-GUNS) to report a convicted felon in possession of a gun! Okay, maybe not. But it might be interesting. It might make a point. (Courtesy: Shooter/Parmount Pictures) This weekend a new action thriller movie opens. It's based on one of my favorite books, "Point of Impact" by Steven Hunter. The movie is "Shooter," and it stars Mark Wahlberg, who is red hot, coming off his recent Oscar-nominated performance in "The Departed." There's only one problem. If what I read in press reports is true, Wahlberg is a convicted felon. It appears that he was sentenced to more than two years in prison several years ago, but served less than two months. As we know, a convicted felon can't own a gun. Even picking up a gun is a federal felony. "Shooter" is the story of a former military sniper who gets pulled into a sinister plot (is there any other kind?), and it involves a lot of shooting. Wahlberg had to handle a lot of guns, and at least one report said he did extensive training with real guns prior to making the movie. The truth is, I don't care much about Wahlberg's past, but it does ding my sense of outrage that he can do that, while any one of us, having been convicted of a felony, would be facing serious hard time in the federal prison system just for enjoying a day at the range. No doubt a lot of people screw up when they are young. Extending second chances is part of what we like to think of as being good, wholesome, and American. After serving time, or paying whatever the legal price is, that debt is paid. Unless we are talking about the civil right to own a gun. Until about 10 years ago those who had felony convictions could petition the ATF to get back their gun rights. Then, the U.S. Congress removed the funding (urged -- no doubt -- by the Clinton Administration) the ATF used for this program. No Congress since then has mustered the courage to put the money back into the AFT budget. It's a perfect PR situation for the Brady Campaign. ("What? You are allowing FELONS to have guns?!!!) You bet. A person who committed a white collar crime, or who did something stupid as a kid 10, 20 or 30 years ago, should be able, at least, to TRY to get back his or her gun rights. For the last decade, that has been impossible. The AFT can't even handle the applications. Given this situation, it's unlikely that Mark Wahlberg has regained the right to own or even touch a gun. That doesn't mean he shouldn't be able to. Unfortunately, someone with a felony conviction, but who is no danger to society, is unable to legally protect himself or his family with a gun, enjoy the shooting sports, make a movie that involves handling a gun, or simply enjoy the Constitutional protections afforded other Americans. It's time for Congress to ignore the rants of the radical anti-gun rights crowd, and to restore the funding to the BATFE, so that good people who present no danger, and who have lived a clean life, can seek the reinstatement of their Constitutionally-guaranteed Second Amendment rights. EDITOR'S NOTE: A nationally-known firearms expert and television host, Tom Gresham, talks about gun safety, sport & recreational shooting, gun collecting, personal defense, and firearm issues on "Tom Gresham's Gun Talk" each weekend. It's available on regular radio, Sirius satellite radio (channel 144), XM satellite radio (channel 166) and through live streaming as well as podcasting and downloadable MP3 files.