Can a Felon Own a Crossbow? -
Civilian Rights Firearms

Can a Felon Own a Crossbow?

After felons leave prison, many like to return to activities that they once enjoyed.  For some, this is hunting.  Or more specifically, bow hunting.

As felons, they are not permitted to own a firearm after receiving a felony conviction.  This is true whether their crime involved firearms or not.

That said, it's very likely that someone with a felony on their record is wondering whether or not they can own a crossbow.  After all, a crossbow isn't a firearm, but it's still considered a weapon.

This blog post will cover the following to help explain whether felons can own a crossbow.

  1. Is a Crossbow Considered a Firearm?
  2. Federal Ban on Guns
  3. Restrictions on Hunting with a Crossbow
  4. Can I Own a Crossbow in my State?

Is a Crossbow Considered a Firearm?

A crossbow is a type of weapon based on the bow, consisting of a horizontal bow-like assembly mounted on a stock.  It shoots arrows which are called bolts.

A weapon is any device used for attacking or defense in fighting.

That said, is a crossbow considered to be a firearm?

By legal definition, a firearm means “any device made or adapted to expel a projectile through a barrel using the energy generate by an explosion or burning substance or any device readily convertible to that use.” In other words, a firearm uses rapidly expanding gases to propel a projectile.  A crossbow fires an arrow by flinging it mechanically without the aid of burning, expanding gases.

This means that a crossbow does not qualify as being a firearm.

Since a crossbow is not considered a firearm, felons are not restricted by federal law from owning one. 

Thus, purchasing, owning, and target shooting with a crossbow is legal for felons as well as those without a felony conviction.

We were also able to find the following quote directly from a Criminal Defense Attorney, but realize it's not always this simple...

Make sure you read this full article to understand your best course of action.

Yes, a crossbow would be legal. The prohibition is against ownership of a firearm by a convicted felon, and crossbows (along with certain types of antique guns like black powder muzzle=loaders) are not covered by the law or otherwise exempted.

Christopher Welch

Criminal Justice Attorney of 18 Years

Federal Ban on Guns

In 1934 the federal government passed a law denying anyone convicted of a violent felony the right to own a gun.  This added to a restriction that already existed to prevent violent felons from owning machine guns.

This remained as the law until the Gun Control Act in 1968 when it was amended to include all persons convicted of any felony, even those that did not involve violence.

This remains in effect until the current day.

Many felons are not aware that it is 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.

The only exception to this rule is a black powder firearm which is a little bit different because they're considered antique firearms.

Restrictions on Hunting with a Crossbow

There are state laws, each of which is different, that focuses on hunting with a crossbow, however.  

Oregon is the only state in which crossbows are completely illegal for hunting, even for those without a felony conviction.

Most states specify that a crossbow can only be used for hunting during bow hunting season, which is different from rifle hunting season.

Many states require a person, felon or not, to have a disability to use a crossbow for hunting.

A crossbow is different from a regular bow.  A regular one requires pulling back on the bow to shoot it.

With a crossbow, it can be locked and loaded for the hunter to aim and shoot.  This is much easier for some with a disability to use for hunting.

While a permit is required to own a firearm, current law does not have this same restriction on a crossbow.

Can I Own a Crossbow in my State?

This is where the law gets a bit murky.  The truth is, it's always best to check with a local lawyer to make sure that you are allowed to have a crossbow in your possession.  

This is because all states are different and it's better to be safe than sorry.  

If you don't do your homework with an issue like this, it's possible that you could accidentally get arrested for something as simple as wanting to go hunting with a crossbow.

We know it sounds ridiculous, but we'd urge you to be cautious with this before moving forward.

To help you get an answer from a local lawyer, we've partnered with Just Answer.  

This service is great because for $5, they'll give you 7 full days of access to a lawyer to ask this question and any others you may have.  Click here to ask your question and get an accurate answer from a local lawyer.

As an example to show how important it is to always get an answer directly from a local lawyer, here is what a criminal law layer said specifically related to hunting with a crossbow in New York.

A traditional bow or compound bow is not considered a "firearm" under New York or federal law regarding restricting felons from firearm possession. There is some controversy over crossbows. If you aren't interested in crossbows, then you can hunt. If you want to use a crossbow, you should petition to have your rights restored before engaging in that pursuit.

Christopher Welch

Criminal Justice Attorney of 18 Years

So, as you can see, it's important to verify this information in your area.  

While general law states it should be fine in New York, a criminal law lawyer feels that it's necessary to petition to have your rights restored.

**Please note the information provided for discussion and entertainment purposes only. We urge you to speak with a lawyer directly about this question to make sure you follow local laws**


4 responses to “Can a Felon Own a Crossbow?”

  1. i can nit find a straight answer anywhere on the web! what im wanting to know is me a convicted felon aloud to own a black powder gun? i read that under federal law a black powder gun is not considered a firearm even if it is a replica! i also read that law can change from state to state on what felons are not aloud and are aloud to have in there possession! so that begining said “in the great state of Pennsylvania can a felon own a black powder gun of and kind including a flint lock rifle???

  2. Tony says:

    Missouri is trying to tell me that I can’t hunt with a bow and arrow of any kind. I hope that I can prove them wrong. Any suggestions on how to do it? I’m a convicted felon.

  3. Mark Heinlein says:

    A felon cannot own posess transport any thing with a trigger mechanism or ammo

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