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How Can A Convicted Felon Receive Firearm Rights?

A Convicted Felon Receive Firearm Rights

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. So, how can a convicted felon receive firearm rights?

State vs. Federal Gun Restoration Laws

Under federal law, convicted felons lose their firearm rights, which is a decision that stemmed from a law developed in 1934. At that time, the federal government mandated that no person convicted of a felony involving violence would be able to have his or her firearm rights restores. Since the Gun Control Act was passed in 1968, anyone convicted of a felony – whether or not it involved violence – loses his or her firearm rights.

However, state laws may differ from those at the federal level. Varying state by state, gun restoration laws offer convicted felons opportunities to regain their firearm rights, and in some places, it is easier than others.

For instance, in Indiana, a person can petition to the courts to have their firearm rights restored, and in Kentucky, a convicted felon can apply for expungement – but not until five years after his or her sentence has been completed.

All in all, if you are looking to have your firearms rights restored, be sure to look into your state’s laws to ensure you are proceeding legally, with the correct information.

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.

Ways to getting Firearm Rights Restored

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.

Receive Firearm Rights

1. Felony Expungement

As previously stated, some states will allow convicted felons a second chance. Apply for felony expungement means the felon’s criminal records will be erased (as though the crime never happened), thus restoring his or her rights to purchase and carry a firearm (if applicable in his or her state of residence).

Check your state’s website to determine what makes someone eligible for expungement, and discuss further with an attorney that is able to analyze your particular situation. If you are eligible for expungement in your state, you must first file a petition with the courthouse.

After the proceedings, your record may be expunged, in which case you may be able to restore your firearm rights.

2. Petition for Restoration of Firearm Rights

Lastly, in some states, you may be eligible for a Petition of Restoration of Firearm Rights. Typically, the state will only consider you if you were charged with a crime unrelated to violence.

3. Governor’s Pardon

Several states like California, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma will restore a convicted felon’s firearm rights if he or she receives a governor’s pardon. To receive a Governor’s Pardon, you must apply through your state of residence – but only if you are eligible.

Here’s how to apply for a Governor’s Pardon.

4. Federal Pardon

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.

How Can A Convicted Felon Receive Firearm Rights

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
  • The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms


The agency will then review an application to restore the 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.

Help from an Attorney

Because laws are ever-evolving, it can be confusing and rather difficult to attempt to restore your firearm rights if you are a convicted felon. However, there are gun restoration lawyers available to provide expert and realistic legal advice when it comes to receiving your rights again.

Wondering what other rights convicted felons lose? Here are six other rights convicted felons lose after committing a crime.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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