When it comes to felonies and gun rights and the second amendment, federal and state gun laws and penal code can be a little murky to maneuver for convicted felons.
So, here’s what you should know about whether non-violent felons can own firearms, what states restrict gun ownership, and where you can have your gun rights restored after a non-violent felony conviction in the United States.
Can a Nonviolent Felon Own a Firearm?
Most of the time, federal law prohibits anyone with a felony – violent or non-violent – to own a firearm.
This also includes anyone who has a misdemeanor related to domestic violence too.
However, there are some exceptions when a felon could retain their gun rights, such as:
- Their felony conviction has been set aside by the courts
- Their felony conviction has been expunged from their record
- Their felony conviction was pardoned
- The felon’s civil rights were restored by the state where they committed the crime
So, while the blanket answer is that nonviolent felons can’t own firearms, this civil right can sometimes be restored by the state.
It’s also important to note that many states have their own gun laws that overlap with federal law regarding felons and firearms, and this can vary from state to state.
It’s important to note that federal law does not take away gun rights for a few specific types of felonies – those that take place in foreign countries and felonies related to antitrust violations, restraints of trade, unfair trade practices, and other offenses that specifically deal with business practices.
What States Can a Felon Own a Gun in 2021?
While states can restore civil rights to felons, the restoration process for gun rights is a little different based on the state.
Many states require nonviolent felons to petition for their rights, but in certain states, the approval process is automatic once you’ve served your sentence and you’ve spent a certain amount of time with no more convictions.
The states that currently allow non-violent felons to possess firearms include:
- Alaska (if 10 years have passed since your felony conviction)
- Oregon (if it’s been more than 15 years since your non-violent conviction, gun rights are automatically restored)
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- Texas (if five years with no more felony convictions have passed after you’ve served your sentence)
Of the states listed above, only Vermont, Indiana, and Rhode Island allow non-violent felons to possess firearms without further restrictions – like time limits.
These laws also only cover possession, not purchasing a firearm.
For instance, you may be in possession of a firearm in one of these states, but you still can’t purchase a firearm unless the conviction has been expunged from your record.
States That Restore Gun Rights to Felons
While only Vermont, Indiana, and Rhode Island truly allow for firearm possession by non-violent felons without restrictions, there are several states that will restore your gun rights (either through petition or automatically) if you meet certain qualifications, such as:
- Alabama (through state pardon)
- Alaska (after 10 years without a new conviction)
- Arizona (through state pardon)
- California (through state pardon)
- Colorado (through state pardon)
- Connecticut (through state pardon)
- Delaware (through state pardon)
- Florida (through state pardon after 8 years from the conviction)
- Georgia (first time, non-violent offenders can apply for a license 10 years after conviction)
- Hawaii (through state pardon)
- Iowa (through state pardon)
- Kansas (restoration three to eight years after conviction, depending on the type of felony)
- Kentucky (through state pardon)
- Louisiana (through state pardon or 10 years after your sentence)
- Maine (through state pardon)
- Maryland (through state pardon)
- Massachusetts (Long run rights restored after 5 years)
- Michigan (restoration after 3 years)
- Minnesota (restored upon discharge unless it’s a drug-related felony)
- Mississippi (restored through pardon or petition)
- Missouri (through state pardon)
- Nebraska (through state pardon)
- Nevada (through petition with the sentencing board)
- New Hampshire (through judicial annulment)
- New Mexico (restored ten years after the completion of your sentence)
- New York (through state pardon)
- North Carolina (restored by the court 20 years for non-violent first-time offenders)
- North Dakota (restored after 5 years)
- Ohio (restored after the completion of your sentence)
- Oklahoma (through state pardon)
- Oregon (restored 15 years after completion of sentence for first-time offenders)
- Pennsylvania (restored 10 years after discharge for specific offenses)
- South Dakota (restored 15 years after conviction with no further offenses)
- Tennessee (restoration after petitioning the court)
- Texas (restored 5 years after the completion of your sentence)
- Utah (through state pardon or expungement)
- Virginia (restored through court order or pardon)
- Washington (through state pardon or court order after a certain waiting period)
- West Virginia (through state pardon)
- Wyoming (through state pardon)
Although most states will restore your firearm rights through a pardon or expungement, only a handful of states – like Texas, Georgia, Kansas, South Dakota, Virginia, and Tennessee – will restore your rights automatically with after a time limit or through a court petition.
Texas and Federal Law
As mentioned above, Texas law will restore your gun rights after five years – but there’s a little more detail that goes into this state law.
While you’ll get your rights restored after five years, that clock only starts ticking once you’ve completed your sentence.
So, if you served two years in prison due to your non-violent felony, that time won’t count towards your five-year wait time – in addition to the two years that you’ve served, you’ll still need to wait an additional five years after you get out of prison before you can have your rights restored.
Since federal law still states that felons cannot own firearms, nonviolent offenders in Texas cannot purchase firearms – but after five years from their completed sentence, they can possess them.
Indiana Gun Laws vs. Federal Gun Laws
Indiana may allow felons to own guns, but how does this work when the federal laws prohibit someone with a felony to own a gun? Here’s what you should know about the difference between Indiana’s gun restrictions and federal gun restrictions.
Who Can Possess a Firearm in Indiana?
Even though federal law won’t allow felons to own firearms, a non-violent felon can be in possession of a firearm.
They cannot purchase a firearm on their own, but they’re allowed to have it in their possession.
However, this law only applies to non-violent felonies.
Someone who has a violent, serious felony on their record – like murder, robbery, or domestic violence – cannot buy or possess a firearm at all.
Restoration of Gun Rights in Indiana
If you have a serious felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor on your record, there may be steps you can take to restore your gun rights in Indiana.
Domestic violence felonies charges aren’t eligible for restoration unless you petition the court and ask them to reduce your charge to a misdemeanor.
For serious, violent felonies, it may also be possible to restore your gun rights – depending on the crime.
Indiana may allow for restoration if the crime is “expunged” from your record, which is mostly applicable if you were charged but not convicted of a serious felony.
Still, expunging a felony or misdemeanor from your record can take five to ten years, depending the offense.
This is also only applicable if you haven’t been convicted of another crime during the waiting period.
All Felons Banned From Firearm Possession in Missouri
Along with federal law, Missouri bans felony firearm possession – but there may be exceptions to this.
Gun Rights May be Restored for Specific Felonies Under Federal Law
While Missouri used to ban firearm possession for all felony convictions, they’ve since added an expungement statute that allows for the restoration of gun rights under specific circumstances.
The state of Missouri doesn’t have official criteria, but an expungement can happen if you petition the courts or receive a pardon.
For example, this might include a non-violent felony charge where you’ve completed your sentence and sufficient time has passed without an additional charge could possibly qualify for restoration of gun rights, but the law currently functions on a case-by-case basis.
Can a Non-Violent Felon Possess a Firearm?
No, under Missouri’s current strict gun laws, a non-violent felon cannot possess a firearm.
This includes all felonies charges – even the ones that federal law usually protects, like those related to business or unfair trade practices.
Having unlawful possession of a firearm in Missouri is considered a Class D felony – and with certain more serious charges, can even be considered a Class C felony.
While federal law prohibits most violent and non-violent felons from owning a firearm, state laws can vary.
Almost all states allow possession if the felony has been pardoned or expunged from your record, and some states also give automatic restoration of your gun rights after a certain amount of time has passed.
Since gun rights can be nuanced for nonviolent felons, it’s important to check the specific laws of your state before you try to possess any kind of firearm.