How Do I Get My Gun Rights Back After A Felony?

You have finished serving your sentence and are eager to move on with your life. You have paid your fines, completed probation, or had an absolute discharge. But now, you’re asking yourself: how do I get my gun rights back after a felony?

After a qualifying conviction, there are two main methods to get your gun privileges back: getting a “wobbler” felony downgraded to a misdemeanor crime or getting the governor to grant you a pardon. 

If you want to get started with the process of getting your rights to own guns again, read on.

The Second Amendment

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The Second Amendment of the US Constitution protects the freedom to carry firearms.

In 1791, the government deemed it important for citizens to have the freedom to own guns for protection against aggressors and in case a militia (people’s army) was required.

The government opted to restrict certain people from having this privilege, and an offender with a criminal record is one of those.

Federal Gun Ban

Some people are not allowed to own dangerous weapons under federal court of law.

The person convicted of a felony or a minor domestic violence offense are on the list of “prohibited persons.” A lifelong prohibition is usually the outcome of either kind of conviction.

Additionally, the law forbids persons covered by the majority of domestic violence restraining orders to possess firearms while the order is in force.

Felony convictions: In the US, those with felony convictions may lose their civil rights, such as their ability to vote, hold public office, participate in jury duty, and own firearms.

The purpose of laws prohibiting convicts from owning firearms is to prevent repeat offenses and known offenders from committing new violent crimes.

Any offense that carries a sentence of more than one year in prison qualifies as a felony, regardless of the time a person serves in jail.

Nearly all felony convictions include the ban. An individual disobeying this clause is often called a “felon-in-possession.”

According to state statutes, felon-in-possession is often penalized by a jail term of one to three years. Additionally, there could be additional penalties like jail time and fines.

According to the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968, if you are a felony “in any court” that has a potential sentence of more than one (1) year in prison, you are not permitted to carry a weapon under federal law.

A lifelong prohibition on gun ownership follows felony convictions.

Can convicted criminals use shotguns for hunting
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Now, can convicted criminals use shotguns for hunting?

No. Any weapon, including a starting gun that you can modify to eject a projectile and an explosive, is referred to as a firearm under federal law.

Shotguns used for hunting include the federal law’s definition of a firearm, except crossbow. Considering that, convicted felons may use a compound bow or crossbow for hunting.

Further restrictions on gun ownership or possession include:

  • narcotics drug addict,
  • mentally unstable,
  • twice involuntarily placed on a mental institution,
  • under the age of 18,
  • barred from owning a gun by a court order or as a condition of probation, or
  • forbidden from owning a gun under federal law.

Domestic violence for a misdemeanor conviction: Only certain minor offenses are subject to federal gun prohibition.

For misdemeanors, the maximum sentence is often one year in jail or less. The offense must entail domestic violence against a victim who satisfies the federal definition of an intimate partner to be subject to the prohibition.

In addition, the government imposed a 10-year federal firearm ban for almost 40 offenses. These consist of:

  • assault,
  • violence,
  • brandishing a firearm, and
  • uttering criminal threats

Penalty. If found guilty of illegal gun ownership, a person might spend up to 10 years in federal prison for federal conviction and pay a $250,000 fine.

State Gun Ban

The federal prohibition often overlaps or is expanded upon by state legislation. Therefore, even if a conviction does not result in a state law restriction, it may result in a federal ban.

For instance, anyone convicted of a felony under misdemeanor domestic violence charges in California can not own or have firearms for ten (10) years after their conviction.

Those with criminal convictions are subject to a lifelong prohibition. (California Penal Code sections 29800 and later (2021))

State Gun Ban
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Other states have passed legislation to fill what they regard as “loopholes” in federal law.

In certain areas, dating partners, roommates, and any family member are now considered victims of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses (as opposed to intimate partners under federal law).

Other states don’t simply prohibit assaults and violence against intimate partners; they also outlaw all criminal assaults, battery, and stalking.

State-specific laws impose different penalties, which are often felonies or severe crimes.

Firearms Rights Restoration

In general, however, you may be able to get your firearm rights back after a conviction as long as it wasn’t for:

  1. A crime of domestic violence, or
  2. A felony conviction with a deadly weapon.

It might be difficult to restore gun rights after a felony. Under federal law, a person’s ability to carry firearms may be reinstated upon a governor or presidential pardon, the restoration of their civil and political rights, or the expungement or set aside of their conviction.

But the federal government may restrict these restoration powers by limiting the impact of an expungement, set aside, or pardoned under state law.

And the opposite is also true—it is conceivable to have your access to weapons restored by state law while still falling under the federal ban.

As mentioned earlier, there are two methods to get your gun rights back after a qualifying conviction:

By reducing a “wobbler” felony to a misdemeanor

A crime known as a “wobbler” is either a felony or a misdemeanor. In California, a crime known as a wobbler offense—also known as an “alternative felony/misdemeanor offense”—can be prosecuted or penalized as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

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Whether to prosecute a wobbler as a felony or a misdemeanor often rests with the prosecutor.

You might ask the court to have a wobbler conviction lowered from a felony if you were found guilty of it as a felony.

You will only be subject to any restrictions that the offense entails as a misdemeanor after you reduce your felony.

According to state law, you can submit a petition requesting a court to restore your weapons rights if you match the necessary criteria.

These petitions, which include information on your condition and your case for reinstatement, must be filled out cautiously and with great care.

The sentencing judge can turn down your request if you don’t provide a strong case.

Several factors may lead to the denial of petitions, including:

Errors in the court’s or the application’s files: To the best of your knowledge, all the information you provide the court must be accurate.

To ensure no inconsistencies, your attorney should review your court file, criminal offenses, and petition.

Failing to provide clear and convincing evidence that your lifestyle is legally compliant: You will need to provide proof of your actions after being released, that you have finished your probation and sentence, and that you are living a law abiding life.

Opposition from interested parties: Before restoring your gun rights, the court must conduct a public hearing on your petition as required by law.

The court may reject your petition if there is contestation by an alleged victim, a family member, a government agency, a prosecutor, or another party.

Obtaining a pardon from the governor

After a conviction, the second route to regain your Second Amendment right to keep and bear weapons is by the governor’s pardon.

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You must submit a formal request for a pardon to the governor if you have certain minor sex offenses or you reside outside of California.

Otherwise, getting a pardon process requires two steps:

  1. Request a California Certificate of Rehabilitation from the superior court.
  2. If the petition is approved, it immediately becomes a request for a pardon from the governor.

You must submit the Executive Clemency Application along with a personal statement outlining the circumstances behind your plea for forgiveness before getting your gun privileges back.

You must also submit a ton of other paperwork, including your tax returns, updated FBI criminal records, your fingerprint card, and your job history.

Your criminal defense lawyer may ensure you have all the paperwork you need to apply for the governor’s pardon.

The Executive Clemency Advisory Board will assess your application once completed and provide any suggestions to the governor.

The governor will then decide whether to approve or reject the application in the end. It is critical to realize that your criminal offenses will remain intact even after receiving a pardon.

In contrast to expungement, which erases or seals your offense, a pardon only restores part of your civic rights.

The governor has the full authority to accept or reject pleas for pardons. Applicants typically must have lived in the state for at least seven years.

Conclusion

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The laws governing the acquisition and use of firearms may be complex and subject to change. Regaining your gun rights is difficult and requires the services of a knowledgeable legal team.

Speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine how the law relates to your particular circumstance.

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