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Imprisoned ex-congressman wants gun rights restored

Duke Cunningham

Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, nearing completion of a prison sentence for bribery and tax evasion, has asked the judge who sentenced him to restore his right to carry weapons so he can enter shooting contests and hunt bears and cougars after he is released.

In a letter to District Judge Larry Burns, Cunningham said that he will be 71 when he's released from prison in December to a halfway house in Little Rock, Ark., and that he has cancer. As a convicted felon, he is barred from possessing firearms.

"I flew aircraft that could disintegrate your building with a half-second burst and now can't carry a .22-caliber," wrote Cunningham, a decorated Navy pilot in the Vietnam war. "Pls help me your honor.  I don't have much left but this little thing is a big thing to me."

Burns responded with a letter saying he does not have the authority to restore Cunningham's 2nd Amendment rights to carry weapons.

The letters, included in the San Diego federal court file of Cunningham's case, were revealed in the blog of journalist Seth Hettena, author of a well-received book about Cunningham: "Feasting on the Spoils: The Life and Times of Randy Cunningham, History's Most Corrupt Congressman."

In March 2006, Burns sentenced Cunningham to eight years and four months in prison for his guilty plea to taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors and evading more than $1 million in taxes. Cunningham is at a federal prison in Tucson, Ariz.

Cunningham, a Republican, was elected to Congress from a San Diego County district in 1990. He was elected in 2004 to an eighth term.

Once he leaves the halfway house, he plans to live in rural Arkansas with his 99-year-old mother, Cunningham wrote Burns. "My crime was non violent and a first time offense. I will use the weapons safely for hunting and competition, you have my word on it."

Burns wrote that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lacks funds to review applications like Cunningham's and he has no authority to order such a review.

--Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham leaves the federal courthouse in 2005 after pleading guilty to bribery and tax evasion. Credit: Associated Press

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