As most felons know, owning a gun following a felony conviction is not allowed. Those rights are lost after a conviction. But, does it have to be forever? Not necessarily; however, it won’t be easy.
This blog post will address the question of how a felon can get gun rights restored.
- What Are Gun Rights?
- Loss of Firearm Rights
- Restoring Gun Rights
- General Guidelines for a Felon to Follow
- Receiving a Pardon
- Recommended Action
What Are Gun Rights?
Gun rights refer to the civil rights under the U.S. Constitution that allows someone to buy, own, and carry a firearm. This is one of the basic rights granted to U. S. citizens. Even with this, there are still restrictions in place regarding ownership and usage of firearms.
While a license is not required in all areas for a firearm, different licenses for firearms are offered according to their intended usage and includes owning a firearm, engaging in hunting, target shooting, or operating a gun-related business.
Federal law does not require licensing for gun owners or those who buy guns. Licenses for firearms are enforced at the state level.
Loss of Firearm Rights
Following a felony conviction, certain civil rights are lost as a penalty for having a serious violation of the law punishable by at least a two-year prison term. Removal of these rights reflects the seriousness of the crime.
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 law remained 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 regulation remains in effect until the current day.
Gun rights are lost not only due to the belief that a felon does not deserve those basic rights but also because a felon is no longer trusted to maintain the safety of other fellow citizens. Their violation of the law demonstrates the loss of trust by society at large.
Restoring Gun Rights
There are procedures in place to regain the right to own a gun, known as restoring firearm rights. There are several ways to have those rights restored.
The simplest process for getting gun rights back is for a felon to have his or her record expunged. For those that are eligible for this, there are steps to follow.
General Guidelines for a Felon to Follow
Then, an applicant, to get gun rights back, must not have been convicted of a forcible felony within the past 20 years. Also, at least 20 years must have passed since the end of incarceration for the felony. An applicant’s criminal history and reputation must show that the applicant will not act in a dangerous manner toward the general public. Restoring a firearms rights to a felon must also not be considered contrary to the public interest or federal law.
The process for a felon with a non-violent felony is easier to follow. In returning to society and establishing a place in the community, a felon needs to have maintained a life free from crime for the last 20 years and must demonstrate a stable work history. This is a major challenge for all felons following incarceration. Employment opportunities are available to give felons a chance.
Another aspect of reconnecting within the community is to address important issues, such as doing volunteer work or joining a 12-Step program for recovery from addiction if that is a problem.
Receiving a Pardon
Gun rights can also be restored by receiving a pardon. In order to obtain a federal pardon, felons must wait five years after completion of their sentence. Then they may contact the federal government regarding clemency. They should first seek legal counsel.
Felons must state the reason for seeking clemency and how the pardon will help them accomplish that. They will need to provide evidence 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 appropriate government or licensing authorities. They must have a clean criminal record after the time of the initial conviction.
Their personal background is extremely important. The nature, seriousness, and length of time since their conviction, along with their overall criminal record, will be considered. Any hardship they may be suffering as a result of their conviction is also important. Involvement in community service or charitable activities will make a difference.
Felons 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 or governor with a recommendation. The appropriate government official will then make a decision on the request for clemency.
For those felons who want to be able to once again own and use a gun, it may be difficult but not impossible. Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference.
A felon can begin again and live an honest life, achieving his or her goal of owning a gun, no matter how difficult it might seem.