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Forever is a long time, and removing a right forever is a bit too unforgiving for some mistakes in life.

A U.S. appeals court earlier this month ruled that a Wisconsin man who had convictions for domestic violence could be barred from ever owning a gun. Steve Skoien appealed his prison sentence for violating the federal Lautenberg Amendment after authorities found him with a deer-hunting shotgun.

We won't paint this specific defendant, who has multiple convictions for domestic battery, as a sympathetic figure. Government should work to shield victims from their tormentors, yet we're concerned that a blanket rule like this covers both the deserving and the undeserving.

Gun rights organizations point to news stories about otherwise decent people who, through a terrible but brief lapse in judgment, have been arrested for domestic violence. The 73-year-old woman busted for allegedly slapping her granddaughter for swearing is a popular reference.

Presumably her picture wasn't in legislators' crosshairs when they established the lifetime gun ban, but even some of those who pose true dangers can straighten themselves out down the line.

That's the theory behind the justice system, anyway, and the hope of someday again enjoying a Wisconsin tradition like game hunting might spur a little soul-searching.

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As a dissenting judge noted, even felons can receive pardons to have their Second Amendment rights restored. Likewise, legislators could rework the Lautenberg rule to allow those with misdemeanor abuse records to apply for permission to own a gun, say, 10 or 20 years after a conviction.

They'd have to show a clean record here and in other states in the ensuing years and fulfill any court-ordered counseling or assessments. It need not be easy, just possible.

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