How Can A Convicted Felon Receive Firearm Rights?

WrittenJ. Hirbyand Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of all U.S. citizens to bear arms except in certain circumstances. One of these circumstances is if you are a convicted felon. Felons often find it difficult to have applications for firearm rights accepted, especially if they were convicted of violent crimes. For felons with a criminal record, it is harder but not impossible to legally own a gun. They just need to go through the necessary bureaucratic and legislative processes.

Step One: Figure Out Who Charged You With The Crime

Depending on whether the felony was a state or federal offense, a convicted felon's process of getting the rights to bear arms will vary. This is known as adjudication and will involve contacting the Department of Justice in the state or one of several federal agencies.

How It Works

Many states and agencies have an existing form for felons to apply to have their civil rights restored. Generally speaking, these forms will only be accepted if the person can prove that their life has changed and that they are reformed. The person may be required to show proof such as a steady job and ties to the community, and they may need to wait a significant amount of time before being allowed to apply. The process involves finding this form and filing it with the appropriate authorities.

Potential Pitfalls

It is easier to get civil rights restored if a felony conviction was given by a state court rather than a federal court. However, a problem arises when state laws conflict with federal laws, which are often stricter and may take precedence even if the conviction was ruled by state authorities.

If this is the case or if a felon had his conviction given by a federal agency, they will have to file with the U.S. Attorney General's office or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The agency will then review an application to restore rights to bear arms. The problem then becomes that this agency is notorious for simply failing to review the documents, leaving former convicts in a sort of legal limbo while waiting for their firearm rights to be restored. This is the case even if felons were not guilty of violent crime convictions.

The only other federal recourse is to petition for a presidential pardon. This process requires the assistance of a lawyer and can restore a variety of civil rights including the right to hold public office in addition to the right to bear arms.

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