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Can a Felon Own a Gun? It's More Complicated Than It Seems

By    |   Monday, 17 Nov 2014 07:44 PM

Federal law prohibits a convicted felon from purchasing or owning a gun but there are certain provisions in both federal and state laws that can reinstate gun rights. The legalities of felon gun ownership are more complicated than they might seem because individual states have unique legal provisions and specific statutes regarding felon rights to reinstatement.

For example, the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, which regulates gun sales, interstate gun transfers, and gun ownership, specifically prohibits felons from owning a gun. However, according to the judicial system in Virginia, a felon may apply to the circuit court in their residential jurisdiction for a permit to own a gun. This petition may only be filed after the felon has received a "restoration of rights," which includes the right to vote. Eligibility requirements to have gun ownership rights restored are extensive and include the mandate that felons "Be free from any sentence served and/or supervised probation and parole for a minimum of three years."

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In Louisiana, a felon may regain the right to own a gun provided they have not committed a felony crime “for a period of 10 years from the date of completion of sentence, probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.” Thus, a 10-year felony-free period after the felon's sentence has been satisfied can reinstate their right to own a gun.

A report by the The Times-Picayune illustrates the potential for complications to felon gun ownership when it comes to state laws. In 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court was considering how a voter-approved 2012 constitutional amendment that made gun ownership a "fundamental" right affected the rights of felons. The amendment is considered one of the strongest gun right laws in the U.S. and public defender Colin Reingold had argued that it made "the felon firearm law unconstitutional." However, in July 2014, the court ruled against challengers and upheld the constitutionality of Louisiana law that prohibits felons from owning guns.

Although convicted felons lose their right to gun ownership under federal law, they can apply to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms for what is termed "relief" from the disability of not being able to purchase or own a gun. In order to have any such relief granted the circumstances of their crime and felony conviction must warrant the opinion that they do not present any danger to the safety of the public. However, even this situation is complicated because the ATF is currently prohibited from "the expending of any funds to investigate or act upon applications for relief from federal firearms disabilities submitted by individuals." Thus, the ATF does not have the funding to "act upon applications for relief from federal firearms disabilities submitted by individuals" effectively making this option of restoring felon gun ownership null and void.

This article does not constitute legal advice. Check the current gun laws of your state and destination before travel.

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Federal law prohibits a convicted felon from purchasing or owning a gun but there are certain provisions in both federal and state laws that can reinstate gun rights. The legalities of felon gun ownership are more complicated than they might seem.
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2014-44-17
Monday, 17 Nov 2014 07:44 PM
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