Gun Ownership with a Felony
At WipeRecord, we’re asked the same question every day: can a felon own a gun? The general answer to this question is no, a felon cannot legally own a firearm under federal or state law. However, in many cases it is possible to fully restore your 2nd Amendment rights.
Current federal law does not allow you to restore your firearm rights after a conviction under federal law. In contrast, many states have laws allowing you to restore your firearm rights for state felonies.
Many states have laws allowing you to restore your firearm rights when they have been taken away because of a felony conviction under state law.
So how do you get your right to own a gun back if you’ve got a felony? Unfortunately, the answer depends on many factors, the most important being the state the felony conviction was in.
In this article we cover the following topics about gun ownership with a felony:
- Federal and state laws prohibiting felons from gun ownership.
- How to restore your 2nd Amendment rights with a felony.
- What you need to do to get started restoring your gun rights.
Laws that Stop Felons from Owning Guns & Ammo
Both state and federal laws prohibit felons from owning guns to some degree. In some cases, state law may allow you to own a gun while federal law does not. It is important for you to understand that to legally own a firearm you must be able to do so under both federal and state law. If you can legally own a gun under state law but are prohibited under federal law, you can be convicted as a felon in possession of a firearm. This is almost always a felony and a serious federal crime.
Can Felon Own a Gun Under Federal Law?
At the federal level, the main law you need to be familiar is the Gun Control Act of 1968 (the “GCA”). The GCA prohibits felons from owning guns and causes them to fail National Instant Criminal Background Checks (NICS) when trying to purchase guns. Felons who have lost their firearm rights may also not purchase ammunition 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). “Ammunition” is defined as “cartridge cases, primers, bullets, or propellant powder designed for use in any firearm.” 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(17)(A).
Can a Felon Own a Gun Under State Law?
Laws that restrict felons from gun ownership at a state level are unique and vary from state to state. In most states a felony conviction results in a lifetime ban on owning a gun. Many of those states have legal methods to restore gun rights, but the ban is otherwise permanent.
Some states, like New York, take away your rights for felonies and some misdemeanors. Other states like Kansas do not take away your gun rights for all felony convictions, and the restriction is not indefinite. This may sound great if you have a felony conviction in a state like Kansas, but remember that you must also have your federal firearm rights restored to legally own or possess a gun.
Some states like Nevada and Colorado do not have a method to restore your gun rights. If your felony was in one of these states, you’re unfortunately out of luck unless the Governor pardons you. In contrast, Texas restores your gun rights automatically 5 years after you finish your sentence. There are some limitations to Texas’ automatic restoration of state gun rights, but it’s more important to understand that this does not restore your federal firearm rights. This means that a federal agent or law enforcement agency would view you as illegally owning a gun and could charge you with a felony.
Now that we’ve covered the laws that take away your gun rights, let’s move on to how you can get your 2nd Amendment rights back.
Restoring Your 2nd Amendment Right to Own a Gun
When you restore your right to own a gun under state law, it often restores your rights federally as well. However, this is not always the case. It is very important to understand how state law works with the GCA to fully restore your gun rights.
Remember, you need both your gun rights under both federal and state law to avoid criminal prosecution for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
One of the more complicated issues in restoring gun rights is how state and federal law work together. You cannot restore your gun rights directly at the federal level. Instead, you must use state law to restore your firearms in state court, and then federal agencies like the ATF and FBI must accept the legal action taken at the state level to restore your federal rights. This is a complicated area of law and success requires a deep understanding of state and federal firearm laws.
Which State Laws Restore Federal Firearm Rights?
The ATF takes the position that “if the conviction was set aside or expunged; the person was pardoned; or, the person’s civil rights – the right to vote, sit on a jury, and hold elected office – were restored,” then your firearm rights are also restored federally. In plain English this just means that the state must restore all of your civil rights that were taken away by your conviction to also restore your firearm rights. The civil rights that must be restored include your right to vote, serve on a jury, and hold elected office.
Oregon’s firearm rights restoration law is helpful in understanding this legal concept. Oregon has a method to restore your firearm rights under ORS 161.705. However, Oregon’s Constitution also provides that you cannot serve on a jury if you have been convicted of a felony in the last 15 years. This means that if you were convicted of a felony in the past 15 years, an Oregon firearm rights restoration wouldn’t restore all of your civil rights. As a result, an Oregon firearm rights restoration would not restore your federal firearm rights if your felony conviction was in the last 5 years.
Using State Law to Restore Your Right to Own a Gun
Fortunately, most states have a legal way to restore your right to own a gun. Each state has its own, unique requirements you must satisfy. After meeting these legal requirements, most of these state laws give a judge the final say on whether to restore your firearm rights. This means that you must meet the legal requirements of the law and also convince a judge that restoring your firearm rights is in the best interest of justice and will not endanger the public.
You need to understand the specific legal requirements of the state you’re restoring your rights in before starting the process to get your gun rights back. To better understand these legal requirement, here are some links to other articles that provide greater detail:
- Restoring firearm rights in Oregon
- Restoring firearm rights in California
- Illinois Firearm Rights Restoration
- New York Gun Rights Restoration
- Washington Firearm Rights Restoration
- Restoring Gun Rights in Indiana
If you have lost your rights and wish to restore them, the first step is to see if you’re eligible by taking the firearm rights eligibility test.
Our firm has years of experience in representing clients in matters of firearm restoration across multiple states. These can be complicated matters and self-representation can often create more problems than it solves. If you are interested in pursuing restoration, please contact us immediately so that we can start work on your case.