Character

The FCC released a legal decision regarding a radio amateur who had felony convictions, in particular sexual predator type offenses.  The text is located here.  I won't go into the details about the case as it's been reported in detail elsewhere.  The FCC as I understand will attempt to revoke the license of an amateur convicted of a felony on the grounds that they lack the requisite character requirements to be an FCC licensee.  I can understand this for commercial services such as broadcasting where the licensee interacts directly with the public, but I question how relevant or practical this is in the amateur radio service.

First, let me make clear my position on sexual predators.  I think they should be punished and attempts should be made to rehabilitate those who can be rehabilitated.  However, there are those who are simply incorrigible who should spend the rest of their lives rotting in prison.  (The worst should probably be executed but that is problematic on several levels.)  I'm not going to make any judgement of the radio amateur involved in this case as the facts are in the decision text.

The FCC action in this case and other felony conviction cases just doesn't make much sense to me.  The judge in the case makes a very lucid statement regarding the defendant and amateur radio.  Quite simply, even if it was proven that he was still a sexual predator, amateur radio wouldn't be a tool he would use to commit crime.  Frankly, unless someone was into white, balding, overweight, older men, they wouldn't find many potential victims in amateur radio.  The odds of a sexual predator being a threat to radio amateurs is about nil.  Revoking a license really isn't a deterrent to committing a felony, and I'm sure someone would argue that revoking a license is additional punishment for a crime that already had a conviction and punishment specified.

Thinking back to past character license revocations, I can think of one for a convicted murderer spending life in a federal pen, and a ham that was convicted of long distance fraud.  The murderer spending life in prison isn't going to have access to an amateur radio and long distance fraud isn't very relevant to amateur radio.  Call me overly pragmatic, but it just doesn't seem to make sense to spend the time and effort to revoke licenses in these situations.

I recently dealt with a radio amateur who clearly lacked character.  I won't go into detail, but he got caught in his own online web of lies and when he was exposed he made more lies.  But amateurs, unaware or in agreement with his deception, praise him for his work.  No character, but people lacking character like this are likely more detrimental to amateur radio than most of the FCC license revocation amateurs, and we tend to look the other way.

If you have a felony conviction, you probably lack character, but if you lack character in amateur radio, you probably don't have a felony conviction.  Character in amateur radio isn't the FCC's responsibility, it's our responsibility.  Those lacking character who threaten amateur radio don't appear on any legal docket, but they are in our midst.  When we ignore those lacking character, we condone and encourage them.
Anthony Good, K3NG, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Pennsylvania, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

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