Can A Felon Own A Gun? (Felon Gun Laws You Need To Know)

Can A Felon Own A Gun - Possession Of A Firearm By A Convicted Felon - What Weapons Can A Felon Own - What States Can Felons Own Guns

Can a felon own a gun?

In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • when a felon can own a gun
  • the penalties for felons getting caught with a gun
  • special circumstances where felons can own guns
  • how much jail time you’ll face for possessing a firearm
  • how to regain your gun rights as a felon

Let’s dig in.

Table of Contents

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Key Points For Felons Owning Guns

  • Felons are not allowed to own guns on federal and state levels.
  • Some states allow non-violent felons to own guns.
  • Felons can face federal and state criminal charges for possessing a firearm.
  • Non-violent felons must have their civil rights restored to own a gun.
  • Felons can regain gun rights after a certain number of years after sentence completion.
  • Other weapons, like switchblades, brass knuckles, and stun guns are also prohibited.
  • Muzzleloaders and black powder firearms are legal for felons to own.
  • Felons cannot buy a gun with a felony charge or after expungement of a felony.
  • Felons cannot be around someone carrying a firearm.
  • Gun rights may be restored with a pardon from the governor or a court order.

Can A Felon Own A Gun?

No, felons are not allowed to own guns.

Felons lose their firearm rights as soon as they get charged with a felony.

If you owned a gun before your felony conviction, you have to get rid of it.

The government’s goal is to keep convicted felons from committing more crimes with guns.

When a felon gets caught with a gun by law enforcement, they can:

  • get additional felony charges
  • face extra jail time, fines, and restrictions on their rights
  • lose their future gun rights
  • face a 10-year prison sentence (per federal laws)
  • lose civil rights (i.e., their right to vote)
  • lose their rights to possess any other type of firearm

Felon Gun Laws

Each state has its own gun laws for felons.

Generally, felons are prohibited under federal and state firearm laws from:

  • possessing a firearm (i.e., handguns, rifles, shotguns, etc.)
  • possessing ammunition (i.e., bullets, shots, shells, etc.)

Ammunition gets defined as a projectile or projectile core that can get used in a firearm.

This also includes reloading components, like:

  • brass
  • cartridges
  • primers
  • smokeless powder

Some states have a process that restores a felon’s right to bear arms.

This is through a process called “executive clemency.”

Executive clemency is the executive power to:

  • grant a pardon
  • commute a sentence
  • restore an individual’s rights (i.e., a felon’s gun rights)

The person who has the power to grant executive clemency to felons is:

  • the President for federal criminal cases
  • the state governors for state criminal cases

What Happens If A Felon Gets Caught With A Gun?

A felon caught with a gun could face federal and state criminal charges.

On the federal level, a felon owning a gun is a federal crime that violates 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).

Violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) with a firearm possession is a felony offense that gets you:

  • up to $250,000 in fines
  • up to 10 years in prison

On the state level, the penalty for a felon in possession of a gun varies.

Some examples are:

  • Alabama: Felony with up to 20 years in jail.
  • Florida: Felony with up to 15 years in jail.
  • California: Felony with up to 3 years in jail.
  • Pennsylvania: Felony with up to 10 years in jail.

Let’s say a police officer charges you with a:

  • 10-year federal-level criminal conviction
  • 7-year state-level criminal conviction

You wouldn’t spend 17 years in jail.

You’d only serve the longer sentence (if you have a good criminal defense attorney).

Meaning you’d only serve the 10-year federal prison term.

This rule was made by the United States Supreme Court.

With concurrent state and federal sentences, you only serve the longer of the two sentences.

This ruling was made in the case of United States v. DiFrancesco (penal code 449 U.S. 117).

Can A Non-Violent Felon Own A Firearm?

A non-violent felon cannot own a gun (at the federal level).

Even non-violent felons have to get their civil rights restored to own a gun.

But, on a state level, some states allow non-violent felons to own a gun.

(Learn about which state below, in the next section.)

Examples of non-violent felonies are:

  • petty theft
  • fraud
  • possession of controlled substances
  • tax evasion
  • white-collar crimes
  • indecent exposure
  • disorderly conduct
  • non-violent DUI
  • probation violations

But, it’s important to note that federal-level gun laws take precedence over state laws.

You can still get in trouble if you are following state laws, but not federal gun laws.

States are allowed to make their own rules regarding:

  • gun sales (i.e., stricter background checks)
  • ownership
  • possession

Federal laws are generally more restrictive and overrule state laws.

Felonies That Do Not Allow A Felon To Own A Gun

These felonies are strictly prohibited from owning guns on state and federal levels:

  • assault
  • murder
  • robbery
  • kidnapping
  • rape
  • sexual assault
  • arson
  • extortion
  • domestic violence
  • child abuse
  • terrorism

All of these felonies involve:

  • violence
  • serious harm to property or people

These felonies do not have to involve the use of a gun.

Some states even have further restrictions for felons to own a gun, like:

  • restricting certain types of firearms (i.e., assault weapons)
  • prohibiting firearms ownership for certain individuals (i.e., domestic violence offenders)
  • requiring mental health evaluations before permitting firearm ownership
  • requiring additional training or safety measures before permitting firearm ownership
  • a lifetime ban on gun ownership for certain felonies

Possession Of A Firearm By A Convicted Felon

It’s illegal for a convicted felon to be in possession of a firearm.

But, the laws vary by state.

Let’s look at the different rules by state.

In What States Can Felons Own Guns?

The states that allow a felon to own a gun during their sentence are:

  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Felons are not automatically allowed to own guns in these states.

For a felon to own a gun during their sentences in these states, you have to:

  • get a court order
  • get permission from your state governor

To do that, you need to:

  • submit an application (fill out the form on this page to get help from a defense lawyer)
  • complete a safety course
  • provide proof of rehabilitation

These states allow felons to own guns for things like:

  • hunting
  • target shooting
  • other recreational activities

How Does A Felon Get Gun Rights Back?

Felons have to have their civil rights restored by the state to regain gun rights.

This involves petitioning the courts or governor’s office with:

  • proof of rehabilitation
  • proof of compliance with all conditions of their felony sentence

The steps for a felon to get their gun rights back are:

  1. determine the process for restoring civil rights in your state (our law firm can help)
  2. gather documents (i.e., sentencing documents, proof of rehab, proof of compliance, etc.)
  3. file a petition for civil rights restoration
  4. pay the filing fees
  5. wait for a response
  6. obtain your permit if needed

Here is a table that tells you, for each state, if a felon can regain gun rights from:

  • a pardon from the state’s governor
  • expungement of their felony from their criminal record
  • court orders

All states will also allow felonies to automatically regain gun rights.

But only after a certain number of years AFTER they have completed their sentence.

This includes probation and everything.

This chart also shows how many years after sentence completion a felon can regain gun rights.

StatePardonExpungementCourt OrderYears After Sentence
New HampshireYesYesYes5
New JerseyYesYesYes5
New MexicoYesYesYes5
New YorkYesYesYes5
North CarolinaYesYesYes5
North DakotaYesYesYes5
Rhode IslandYesYesYes5
South CarolinaYesYesYes5
South DakotaYesYesYes5
West VirginiaYesYesYes5

How Long After A Felony Can You Get A Firearm?

On average, you can get a firearm 5 years after you complete your felony sentence.

But how long after a felony you can get a firearm ranges from 3-10 years.

Here is some data on:

  • how long after a felony you can get a firearm
  • how many states follow that number of years

The data is:

  • 3 years – 7 states
  • 4 years – 1 state
  • 5 years – 38 states
  • 7 years – 3 states
  • 10 years – 1 state

You can check out the table in the previous section to see the data for each state.

What Weapons Can A Felon Own?

Felons are not allowed to own any type of gun or ammunition.

They are also prohibited from owning other weapons, like:

  • switchblade knives
  • brass knuckles
  • butterfly knives
  • stun guns
  • martial arts weapons

Can A Felon Own A Muzzleloader?

Yes, a felon can own a muzzleloader.

This is because they are considered “black powder firearms.”

They use a form of propellant that is not considered a modern firearm.

Some states don’t allow muzzleloaders.

Reach out to our law offices to see if you’re allowed in your state.

Can A Felon Own A Black Powder Gun?

Yes, felons can own a black powder gun and components like:

  • bullets
  • powder
  • caps

Some states don’t allow black powder firearms.

Reach out to our law offices to see if you’re allowed in your state.

Can A Felon Own A Shotgun?

No, felons are not allowed to own a shotgun.

FAQs About Felons Owning Guns

Here are other questions that we get asked by felons seeking to regain their gun rights. 

Can You Buy A Gun If You Were Charged But Not Convicted?

No, you cannot buy a gun if you were charged with, but not convicted of, a felony.

This is outlined in the Gun Control Act of 1968.

Can A Convicted Felon Live In A Home With Guns?

No, it is illegal for a convicted felon to live in a home with guns.

What Criminal Charges Disqualify You From Owning A Gun?

The criminal charges that disqualify you from owning a gun are:

  • felony conviction
  • domestic violence conviction
  • violation of a protective or restraining order
  • unlawful possession or use of a firearm
  • drug trafficking or distribution
  • fugitive from justice
  • unlawful possession of controlled substances
  • dishonorable discharge from the military
  • a conviction for misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence

Can A Felon Own A Gun For Home Protection?

No, a felon cannot own a gun for home protection.

Felons are not allowed to own guns, regardless of the intended purpose.

Violating these gun laws can land you a felony, $250,000 in fines, and 10 years in prison.

Can A Felon Be Around Someone With A Concealed Carry?

No, it is illegal for a felon to be around someone carrying a firearm.

“Being around someone” means either:

  • being in the same area as them (a house, room, vehicle, etc.)
  • knowing that someone in the area is carrying a gun

Can A Convicted Felon Own A Gun After 10 Years?

Yes, gun laws allow a felon to own a gun 10 years after completing their sentence.

Can You Buy A Gun After Expungement Of A Felony?

Under federal law, you cannot buy a gun after the expungement of a felony.

You will have to petition the courts or your governor to regain your second amendment rights.

Regaining Felony Gun Rights

This article is not legal advice. 

Fill out the form on this page for a free consultation on regaining your gun rights. 

We have helped hundreds of people with felony charges gain back their gun rights. 

Talk soon. 

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