Jailed Former Congressman Wants Guns to Fend off Rabid Cougars

Sure, give disgraced former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham a gun. What's the worst that could happen?

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Mike Blake / Reuters

Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-San Diego) (C) speaks as he is flanked by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-San Diego) (L) and Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-San Diego) during the welcoming ceremony of the U.S. Navy's fastest large ship, the Sea Fighter, in San Diego, California, August 1, 2005.

When you plan to live in the foothills of the Ozarks, a healthy fear of rabid cougars comes with the territory. And without a gun to protect yourself, you could be facing some long winter nights.

Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a Republican from California, is currently serving part of a 100-month prison sentence for accepting more bribes than any other politician in the history of Congress.  But in anticipation of his release, he’s sent a letter to a San Diego judge basically begging for the right to bear arms following his release from prison. The letter, sent in early May, was first reported by San Diego journalist Seth Hettena and outlines Cunningham’s post-prison plans.

Cunningham told the judge he planned to live in a small cabin near Greer’s Ferry Lake in Arkansas and write books, several of which he has already finished in prison. The guns, he writes, would be for hunting, sport shooting and defending himself against animals:

“I competed nationally in trap, sheet [sic] and sporting clays would rather be in the woods hunting and fishing than anything else. I will live in a very remote part of Arkansas and not much threat from people but they do have a lot of black bears, cougars, and history of rabies.”

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U.S. District Judge Larry Burns in San Diego responded less than two weeks later, turning down the request because there is no provision for appeals in the 1968 Gun Control Act that denies felons the right to own firearms. Burns wrote that any appeal would need to go to the Treasury secretary and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, but informed Cunningham that, since there is no funding available for the bureau to review such appeals, “it appears you are stuck.”

Cunningham will likely move from his current accommodations at a federal penitentiary in Tucson, Ariz., to a halfway house in December, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, so he is stepping up efforts to create a new life for himself — even as he continues to maintain his innocence despite having pleaded guilty to corruption charges in 2005.

Other letters—and if they are any indication of his books, expect some lengthy prose—point out that the IRS and the Department of Justice have stripped him of his life, not to mention the “several media reporters who reminded me of ravening wolves trying to devour our family.” Lousy lawyers, bad medication and mendacious defendants all contributed to his guilty plea, he writes, on charges that were “95 percent not true.”

And since he was a Navy pilot in the Vietnam War, he should be allowed to have guns outside of prison. Cunningham wrote: “I flew aircraft that could disintegrate your building with a half second burst and now can’t carry a 22 cal. Pls help me your honor. I don’t have much left but this little thing is a big thing for me.”

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