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How Can a Convicted Felon Receive Firearm Rights?

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There are federal restrictions against felons owning a firearm.

This is one of those many things felons are not allowed to have after they leave prison.

This ban is in place regardless of the nature of their crime and whatever the felony was in the past is irrelevant.

Are these rights lost forever?

Not necessarily, but there is a lot to it.

This blog post will address the question of how a felon can regain firearm rights.  We’ll cover the following:

  • Firearm Restrictions For Felons
  • Restoring Firearm Rights
  • Felon Gun Rights By State
  • Can a Felon Own a Gun After 10 Years?
  • Can a Felon Own a Gun After 20 Years?
  • Non Violent Felons Gun Rights
  • Receiving a Pardon
  • Have More Questions?


Firearm Restrictions For Felons

After being released from Prison, many felons want to get a firearm to either hunt or for personal protection.

But, unfortunately, that isn’t allowed.

Where did this restriction come from?

In 1934, the federal government passed a law denying anyone convicted of a violent felony the right to own a gun.

This added to an existing restriction that prevented violent felons from owning machine guns.

That remained as the law until the Gun Control Act in 1968 when additional restrictions were added to include all persons convicted of any felony, even when the felony offense was non-violent.

This law remains in effect, even until the current day.

Aside from a gun, many felons are not aware that it’s also illegal for felons to own any type of ammunition.

Being caught with just one bullet will result in being tried and convicted of another felony, which will carry a more severe sentence because of a prior conviction whether it was a violent crime or not.

Sound unfair?Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter.

The law is the law and when a felon is convicted, they (presently) are unable to purchase a gun or ammunition.

That is of course unless it’s the purchase of a black powder firearm or a crossbow.

Restoring Firearm Rights

Trying to get your firearm rights restored is really going to depend on what state you live in.

For the most part, usually, a pardon after a certain amount of time is possible in most states, but it’s not that simple.

One way for felons to once again own a firearm is to have their records expunged.

The process depends on whether their felony conviction was from the state or the federal government.

It would be an easier process if the felony conviction was from a state court.

So, it can make a difference in what state the felony conviction was charged.

However, when state and federal laws conflict, the stricter law will apply.

For example, federal law prohibits individuals that are convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence from ever owning a firearm.

This law forces the state to deny firearms to individuals who do not receive a pardon or have their record expunged.

If the conviction came from the federal court, there is an application procedure to follow.

This application is filed with the U.S. Attorney’s office or with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

There are of course conditions that must be met in gaining approval to own a firearm again.

First, the applicant must not have been convicted of a ‘forcible’ felony within the past 20 years.

Also, at least 20 years must have elapsed since the end of any incarceration for that felony.

Next, the applicant’s criminal history and reputation must be such that the applicant will not act in a manner considered dangerous to public safety.

Additionally, restoring firearm rights must not be considered contrary to the public interest or federal law.

For those individuals with nonviolent felonies, or those considered to be minor, the process is not as difficult, provided they have lived a crime-free life for 20 years, following release from incarceration.

In order to establish having lived a clean life for the past 20 years, felons must demonstrate a stable work history and strong, healthy ties to their community.

Employment is probably the most challenging aspect of returning to society.

Many felons struggle with finding a job because of the stigma of having a felony record deters employers from hiring felons.

However, there are companies that are willing to give felons a second chance.

Having healthy ties to the community involves having good relationships with family and friends, as well as being involved in community and volunteer work.

Maintaining and documenting that involvement will be valuable to felons hoping to regain firearm rights, as well as any other rights.

Volunteer work, attending a re-entry program, and making contributions to the community will aid their case.

Eliminating bad influences in friend groups, and staying in positive environments will also be an important factor in restoring individual’s gun rights.

Another way to have firearm rights restored is by seeking a presidential pardon or having your record expunged.

Felon Gun Rights By State

State and Federal laws have differing gun restrictions and limitations for convicted felons.

In many cases, a State conviction may make it easier for individuals to regain their firearm rights.

However, that is not the case for all states.

For example, in the state of California, all individuals convicted of a felony can face a lifetime ban from owning a firearm, depending on the severity of the crime committed.

Some of those states include ArkansasCaliforniaColoradoConnecticutDelawareIllinoisMichiganNebraskaNevadaNew HampshireOklahoma, and Washington.

It is important to know how your state gun laws affect your ability to have your firearm rights restored.

Individuals that have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of Domestic Violence face a lifetime ban

In What States Can Felons Own Guns?

While there are restrictions in every state, for the most part, individuals convicted of a felony can eventually restore their gun rights.

Whether you are trying to restore your firearm rights, or not, individuals should know and understand State restrictions and consequences related to firearms.

Laws are always changing, and what is legal today can change tomorrow.

For the most current information about your state’s gun restrictions visit the ATF website here.

As always this is purely educational.

It’s best to speak to a local lawyer, that is familiar with your state’s laws, to help in getting your rights restored.

Can a Felon Own a Gun After 10 Years

Certain states do allow you to get your firearm rights back after 10 years.

However, there are different rules and stipulations as to how to get your rights back in each state.

But, the list of states that allow you to get your gun rights back after ten years are:

  1. Alaska
  2. Georgia
  3. Kansas
  4. New Mexico
  5. North Dakota
  6. Pennsylvania
  7. Utah

Now, to be clear, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get your gun rights after ten years in other states.

What this means is that these are the states that specifically say in their legal documents that after 10 years, certain actions can be taken to restore rights.

For states that don’t have this written, you can still get a pardon usually to restore your gun rights.

If you’re looking to figure out exactly what needs to be done in your state, it’s best that you speak to a local lawyer as they’ll have all the details you need.

Can a Felon Own a Gun After 20 Years

There are two states that specifically mention 20 years in their legal guidelines and explain how once this time has passed, felons can apply for rights to be restored.

  1. Illinois
  2. North Carolina

Just like with the list of states that felons can get gun rights back after ten years, this list doesn’t mean you have to wait 20 years to try and get your rights restored.

There are other ways, typically through a pardon to get your rights back and that goes for almost all states.

Non Violent Felons Gun Rights

While all felony convictions result in a loss of certain rights the road to restoring those rights is different for everyone and can depend on the type of crime committed.

In 2018 the law prohibiting felons from owning guns neglected to include individuals who committed felonies against antitrust laws.

This margin is slim and the line is blurry but it is a loophole that some individuals use, with the help of their attorneys, to restore their rights immediately after serving their sentence.

For example, the case Gregory L. Reyes v Jeff Sessions.

A convicted felon that had long since been released from prison for a “white-collar” crime was granted the right to own a firearm.

Each state has it’s own version and grants rights to nonviolent felons based on those laws.

Please contact a local lawyer to understand what rights you have based on your conviction.

There is some history to suggest that nonviolent felons can have their rights restored immediately following time served, but it is a thin margin that is best left to professionals to navigate.

Receiving a Pardon

In order to obtain a federal pardon, felons must wait five years after completion of their sentence.

Individuals may then contact the federal government regarding clemency.

However, it is recommended to first seek legal counsel.

Individuals convicted of a felony must state the reason for seeking clemency and how the pardon will help them accomplish that.

It is necessary to provide evidence on why it would be in the public’s best interest as well as their own to receive clemency.

They may need documentation, such as a letter from the appropriate government or licensing authorities.

Maintaining a clean criminal record after the time of the initial conviction is a key factor in establishing eligibility for a pardon.

Additionally, establishing a clean personal background is extremely important.

The nature, seriousness, and length of time since conviction along with an overall criminal record will be considered.

Any hardship being suffered as a result of conviction is also important.

Involvement in community service or charitable activities will make a difference.

Individuals will need to submit three letters of recommendation from character witnesses who are not part of their immediate family.

Following the review, the application will be submitted to the President of The United States or state Governor with a recommendation.

The appropriate government official will then make a decision on the request for clemency.

Applicants successful in achieving a pardon will be able to, once again, own a firearm.

However, it is recommended that you speak to lawyers throughout the process to make sure you’re successful.

Have More Questions?

Please note, this article is for informational purposes only.

The staff at felonyrecordhub.com are not lawyers and urge you to contact a lawyer directly in order to get your firearm rights questions answered.


It is important to stress that the information in this post is solely for educational and informational purposes, and does not constitute legal advice.

While every effort has been made to ensure that the information is correct and current, the law in this area is complex and constantly changing, and readers are cautioned to research and verify it independently at an official source.

We highly recommend you speak to legal counsel before moving forward with restoring your rights.

So what do you think about this blog post about felons can receive firearm rights?

Have you or someone you know been in this situation?

What was that like and were they successful?

Please tell us in the comments below.

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