How Can a Convicted Felon Receive Firearm Rights?

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?

Please note, this article is for informational purposes only.  The staff at are not lawyers and urge you to contact a lawyer directly in order to get your firearm rights questions answered.  You can do that affordably by using this website.  

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 Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, 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 hereAs 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 are not lawyers and urge you to contact a lawyer directly in order to get your firearm rights questions answered.  You can do that affordably by using this website.

DISCLAIMER: 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.


You May Also Like

  • What about Florida? You can apply for a restoration of your firearm rights after 15 or so years after your conviction ends, but under Governor Scott, he is slow waling the applications received. It is estimated that it will take at least 50 years for them to get to your name, as they only meet 4 times a year, and only review about 5 or six cases. Its been over 23 years since my conviction for grand theft and dealing in stolen property and I like to hunt..if only with a crossbow. But I can’t even defend my self or my family in my own home or vehicle with a firearm. My wife (CSI for Sheriffs office) can’t even leave her firearm in the house or car if I have access to it. When I go hunting with friends, I can’t be in the truck with access to firearms.. The bottom line is, the stigma of a felony conviction,and loss of civil rights never ends.

  • It ain’t going to happen if you live in a liberal state like NY run by corrupt politicians. I also agree with John, Renee, quit being a stool pigeon and mind your own business.


  • I was convicted in 91 for concealed carry of a knife.
    No violence, wasn’t doing anything but walking home from a nightshift job. Cops stopped me for suspicion, searched me, found a knife, that I used at work. Hit me with a felony. I was told at sentencing that I could not own, purchase or possess a firearm for 9 years. 28 years later I am still on the computer as a felon which makes it impossible to buy a firearm and try explaining to the cops that you are exempt from that law. I was told that I had to get a lawyer to get that expunged but as far as I am concerned I did my time, waited the required 9 years and there is nothing to be expunged. My sentence was no firearms for 9 years. I own guns and I hunt but I keep my guns with friends and I hunt on private property. Screw em.

  • Hello , first of all thanks for the blog, secondly not all states are as strict I r complicated as it seems above. I woukd would say i coukd could be the poster child for regaining my 2nd amendment, that being said i have yet to do so ,why? If im the poster child , im not sure . In Missouri you simply fill out an Executive Clemency application and i thinkits about 20 questions or so , your basica questions listed above. So i will be sendung it off bext week sometime i judt wanted to get any last input before I doso heres my poster

    1.plead guilty to felony dwi aggravated offender in
    2008 (no accidents)with a 10yr revocation of my license

    2.did a 120 treatment program in MDOC

    3. Obtained my GED while incarcerated

    4. Released and on 5 years paper with SATOP and counseling first 1yr

    5. released from counseling early by counselor for lack of treatment needed, finished SATOP

    6. Started college an obtained 2 Associates degrees,1Buikding Maintenance Technology and 1 HVAC/r, and keeping a 3.8-4.0 gpa the entire 4 years sn staying on tne deans or directors list the entire time.

    7. Walked down probation with 0 violations ans a recommendation from my counselor to be released early which was granted.

    8. My 10 year revocation is up this month and i will be eligible to obtain my drivers license back.

    9.its been 11years since I’ve even had my name ran by an officer.

    10. Its been 4 years since i quit drinking

    11. Ive Started AAA Maintenance Services 3 years ago and have been a top pro contractor (top3%) for three years now an have built up alot of great customers

    12. Im seeking this to be able to hunt and be able to teach my son and daughter proper gun safety as i was taught with the mo hunter education course when i was a kid.

    13. Last but definitely not least i really wouldlike to be a first responder if some sort, vounteer fire fighter hopefully.

    So thats the poster does anyone see any reason why I would be denied? i have met and went well above missouri’s requirements, but i think there’s only been 14 Governor pardons in Mo history,im hoping to be 15.

  • This is very good I need help govern Scott just won’t do anything to help but he wants me to vote for him yes I’ve had my voting rights restored m but I like to hunt and we’ll but don’t have my gun rights restored even after 32 years of not being in any troublegeorge

  • Is is a very sad story and very complicated in most states to reinstate gun rights but your allowed to vote. I can say this just like marijuana would never be legal look the fights about over. A word to wise or a helpful sugestions. The public and all felons wanting these rights back should petition in each state. If the felons and the public came up with 200000 signatures on a petition like other laws have done. Maybe the government would vote on such law. The sadest part of the story everybody knows you can get a gun on the street just as fast as walking into the stores. If people with guns are going to commit a crime the law is not going to stop it until after the fact if they get caught. What a sad world we live in felons camt protect there families, house or land. People should stand up and petition tbe goverment.

  • yes I know an may have a date in 2019 with new gov of florida 11 years since fileing for 1986 conviction,i think if not for some fed laws the state I live I would not be concerned with a 33 year old felony, Amendment 4 should help people to stand up ,I don’t even live in florida for now 20 + years now ,but they still control me glad gov scott is gone soon ,now we only hope it shortens the list accept those who seek full pardons,i feel all my rights go together ,there taken at the same time

  • few things I did not touch on In Nh since 1998 now I cleaned up my life near 15 years now ,I got 2 Anullments done in Nh in 6 months no attorney ,were domestic cases too,an so 11 years florida 6 months Nh ,it was how the conviction was marked florida ,or I could have seeked anllument there ,ADJ guilty X marks the spot,i got call from florida in april filed the Anulments in NH soon after ,just got the good news a few weeks back,now its just florida an hope they change the +100 pre civil war law ,florida would now go on without crime ,just to touch on the shootings since say 1995 I am pretty sure most did not include an ex con either ,so the old saying is true that living in one state is like living in another country yet we salute the same flag ,we need some hug changes to much older laws one is the 1968 act an the 1986 act ,as wel as the brady law,they have proved nothing ,other then some commited suicide more over the years ,gun safety courses should be set up for most

  • Hello,

    Has anyone fron NY State or anywhere ever had their rights fully restored ? Firearm & Civil rights ? Let me know, Joluis321@



  • Good luck and if you know of any please let me know . I’ve been trying for 2 years . I have a non violent felony conviction from 1986 and i also got a certificate of relief in 2006 for box b not box c so i can work . Still isn’t good enough ! I petitioned the court 3 times to have it changed from box b to box c to specifically say pistol permit . I was turned down by the same judge who doesn’t even look at my paperwork , just says no . I also was one of the first people in Nys to get the sealment Order that came out in October of 2017. Great right ? Lol ! On that . I’m april i applied for a cert of good conduct from Nys clemency dept – waited another 8 months for them to tell me “ they don’t work on sealed cases “!!! Such bull shit ! So i can’t get a judge to change her mind , i can’t get clemency In NYS because i got a sealed record which by the way is not a total sealment . Policing agency’s can still see it . With that frustration i called Nys again and they told me to call the ATF , which i did last week and they said it doesn’t matter if i got one “ cert of relief changed on the state level , i would need one on the federal level so i can actually purchase a gun . So if you have one from the state it doesn’t matter , and the ATF doesn’t have funding for this . So I’m still looking into the federal level which the guy i spoken to at ATF said he never heard of any felons getting this so I’ve been chasing my tail for 2 years , got nowhere and spent about $12,000 in legal fees all for nothing !

  • What about if I have a felony conviction, but I didn’t have to do any jail time, only probation. Can I still apply or do I have to go through all of this request to pardon/clemency stuff? I’m in Chicago btw..

  • All I want is to be able to have firearms that belonged to my father in my house. I shouldn’t have to store them elsewhere. It was a first time offense (got one year)and has been 43 years since. Never involved with the law since. SMH…

  • you promised all this info then when qfter you got my credit card I could get no response at all out of you. I will be stopping payment on my credit card and exposing you for the chickenship thieving outfit yoy are. Y ou keep getting criminal records and then not coming through you will meet a r
    eal criminal some day and god have mercy on your black ass soul you pieces of shit

  • I was pardoned by a Delaware governor in 2017 for my violent crimes I committed in 1994 at the age of 19. I’m allowed to but guns but was denied my license to conceal carry due to those same crimes I served my time for & was pardoned. I own a trucking company that grossed abt 500k in my 4th yr in business. I’m a home owner & plan to open other businesses. Yet they still stigmatize me based on those crimes I committed over 20 yrs ago. I been on the street now for 13 yrs & no problems. When are the politicians going to realize that criminals dont care about the law. If infact I was still that same person, I wouldn’t be seeking anyone’s permission to conceal carry.

  • I did probation 98-08 possession of marijuana state case squeaky clean sense then, my probation officer told me my rights was restored after I completed probation my probation, in 2009 I went to purchase a weapon and got it, according to the application I’m Exempt because my rights have been restored, it’s now 2019 4 guns total and on Feb 18th 2019 I was denied, reason a convicted felon cannot own a gun, again according to the application I’m exempt it’s in black and white, I’m lost on what to do I challenge they decision Thru email only no one to ask questions to

  • Remember guys, you can own a black powder revolver or rifle as they are not considered a firearm under state and federal laws so you can defend yourself with a reasonable tool if you need to and these things are not expensive. You can acquire a S&W for under 200 dollars but learning everything that goes into owning such a weapon is a whole new animal.

  • Can somebody help me with this situation I thought since 2015 to get my gun rights back I got my gun rights back from the state of California letter in hand from the doj stating ineligible to possess a firearm well register my firearm online next thing you know have a bunch of federal agents about 10 cars at my house with pictures of me looking for me they wanted my gun I took my gun to the ATF and gave it to him they said I’m back good on a state level not federal that’s b******* I was charged with possession marijuana a joint in 1994 mysteriously want to sell my conviction record us for cocaine figures I’m a black man anyway Robert Downey jr. Was a habitual drug offender breaking in houses being found sleeping people houses drug paraphernalia smoking while he went to prison he got a part and he got his gun rights back I don’t see anybody saying nothing Federal on that end I believe there’s a little racist involved and I believe there’s a money thing involved but I’m in litigation and I have contacted so many people the mayor Karen Biggs the City attorney Kamala Harris my assemblyman have countless friends and family and everybody trying to assist me in this because right is right I live in a bad neighborhood in Los Angeles California and all the neighbors not the bad guys have firearms how come I can’t have one legal to protect myself that’s my god-given right to protect myself I never had a violent crime I’ve never done anything to anyone I never had a fight I never had a gun charge can somebody give me any suggestions on what to do but once my gun rights are fully restored I’m leaving California this is my direct email address if anyone can help me I will give you my number. And also the D.A. ATF are up to something email


  • I am in the same boat, I have a felony which resulted in an aggravated battery 30 years ago to date, the Chicago police charged me with 12 felony counts ranging from armed violence, aggravated battery, and unlawful restraint, all were dropped except for one aggravated battery. the person I had a fight with did not show but unfortunately the state took over. they gave me 30 months probation and community service but no jail time. im filing for executive clemency next month do you think that will help in restoring my gun rights…????

  • I think there is more to walking home from work, with a knife you use at work, getting charged with a felony? So many guys carry knives/knives on belt sheaths and never get arrested, Something is not adding up unless you were carrying a 12-inch blade/sword.

  • I just want to know if a felon has a state felony in one state, then goes to another state, will he/she be able to buy a gun from a store?

  • Can a felon in Oregon, get a concealed carry permit, if they have a California full unconditional Pardon from the governor, that restores all their rights and gun rights?

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}