In 1968, the U.S. Congress passed the Gun Control Act, and it was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. One of the primary purposes of the legislation was to further regulate interstate transfers of firearms. However, the law also reinforced existing federal law that made it illegal for a felon to own a gun. Although Congress had already passed the National Firearms Act of 1934, which made it illegal for felons convicted of a violent crime to own a gun, the Gun Control Act expanded the prohibition to include all felony crimes.
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Despite the intention of the Gun Control Act to prohibit felons from owning guns, there are some loopholes that allow felons to circumvent federal law:
1. A 1965 amendment to the federal Firearms Act of 1938 allows felons who want to own a gun the ability to apply for "relief from the disability of not being able to possess a gun." If the felon can convince the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms that the circumstances surrounding the crime and subsequent felony conviction were such that the felon should not be considered a public safety risk, then the felon may be granted the right to legal gun ownership.
2. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
, in order to be prohibited from owning a gun, a convicted felon must have been convicted of a crime that is "punishable by imprisonment for more than one year." Although even the least serious felony convictions carry a sentence of up to three years, sentencing guidelines are open to the interpretation of judges. Thus while it would be rare for a felony conviction sentence to be less than one year, it is not impossible.
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3. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
, "Felons whose convictions have been set-aside or expunged, or for which the person has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored" are not considered "convicted" and thus they would not be prohibited from owning a gun.
4. Certain "white collar" crimes that result in a felony conviction don't prohibit those felons from owning guns. For example, felony convictions related to antitrust laws, restraint of trade, or unfair trade practices do not carry the same prohibition on gun ownership even if the conviction results in imprisonment for more than a year.
5. Some states will reinstate a felon's right to own a gun after they have served their sentence or gone through a period of "cleansing." For example, according to FindLaw
, nonviolent felons in Minnesota state law provides that a felon can legally own a gun as soon as they have finished serving their sentence. In Louisiana, state law provides that after a "cleansing period" of 10 years in which a felon has not been convicted of an additional felony, their right to own a gun may be reinstated.
This article does not constitute legal advice. Check the current gun laws of your state and destination before travel.
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