Firearms are one of the first rights convicted felons lose after they are released from prison. It is Federal law that a felon is unable to own and/or possess a firearm. This is terrible news for any felon who likes to hunt or shoot for sport. Is there a way for felons to regain their right to own a firearm? Can felons shoot guns even if they do not own them? We will answer both questions in this blog post, as well as examine the laws put in place and the effects they have on felons.
Rules Felons Are Required to Follow Concerning Guns.
Felons are unable to purchase, shoot, or own any firearms of any kind. Felons must not be in possession of a firearm at any time. The rules surrounding felons and firearms are enforced, regulated, and made at the Federal level. The state in which the felon resides in has no influence on the felon’s right to own or possess a firearm. It is a federal law, not a state law.
It is important to know that even though felons cannot possess firearms, they can still be around them. It is allowed for a felon to occupy the same residence as a gun owner for example, but it is not allowed for the felon to take possession of the gun. This could range from taking the firearm out hunting, to simply handling the firearm. In the next section there will be a couple real-world example of what this might look like in order to further stress the strict rules that felons must abide by.
Penalties and Punishments for Felons if Caught with a Firearm.
It is a felony if a convicted felon is found in possession of a firearm. The felony charges carry a one to three-year prison sentence with the possibility for extra time to be added on to the sentence depending on the situation.
For example, if a felon is living with their spouse and an intruder breaks into their residence in the middle of the night, it would be illegal for the felon to take their spouses gun and shoot the intruder in self-defense. The felon most likely would not face charges for shooting the intruder but would instead face charges with possessing the firearm.
In another example we look at what happens if a felon and a legal gun owner are pulled over by a police officer and there is a firearm in the car. In this instance, as long as the firearm had the proper registration and concealment, there would be no issue. Now if the felon had the firearm on their belt in a holster, then the felon would be charged with possessing a firearm. It is important to note that the driver (either the felon or the gun owner) should notify the officer that there is a gun in the car and where the gun is. This is just to avoid any possible conflict if the officer searches the car and finds the gun.
Both of these situations show how technical the laws are surrounding a felon’s right to possess firearms. Keep in mind that possession does not mean ownership. It is important to know the difference; it could save a felon from a trip to prison.
Is It Possible for a Felon to Restore Their Firearm Rights?
No. Regardless if a felon has their felony expunged or sealed, that still does not automatically grant the right of gun ownership to the felon. Some states do allow, through the process of expungement, felons to regain the right of gun ownership, but in order for a felon who has had their felonies expunged to own a gun legally again, they must embark on many other processes that are state specific. Check with your state on the laws to find out.
Even though felons in some states are unable to own a gun through expanding their record, many still choose to pursue the process of expungement to help erase their felonies so that they may achieve other goals they hold, like working at a specific company.
It is important to know what expungement is and why so many felons find expungement beneficial.
Expungement is the process where an offense is taken off of one’s criminal record. Expungement can be used for various different reasons and offenses. From misdemeanors to felonies, expungement can be used to erase the offense. Expungement does have its limitations however, like if the felony was a violent crime. Below are two sets of examples of when expungement may or may not be applied.
- If the felony was a violent offense (murder, rape, etc.) then the felony is unable to be expunged and will remain on the felons’ record for the rest of their life.
- If the felony was a non-violent offense (fraud, theft, etc.) then the felony is able to be expunged and removed from the felons’ record.
Steps for Expungement.
- The first step is determining what category the felony in question falls under, if the felony belongs in the “violent offense” category, the felon is unable to go through the steps of expungement and declared “ineligible”.
- If the felony is a “non-violent” offense, it may be expunged, and the felon can proceed with the process.
Even though the law prohibiting felons to possess firearms is a federal law, the process of expunging a felony various by state, so be sure to look into your state’s laws regarding the process of expungement.
The next step, after determining the felon is eligible for expungement, is to collect all of the necessary paperwork to submit to the courts. Work history, community service, criminal records, and any other pertinent information must be sent to the courts along with the felon’s petition for expungement.
After the necessary paperwork has been filed, the court will contact the felon and have them come in for an expungement hearing. If all goes well, the record will be expunged. Note: it is common for expungement hearings to take quite a while, so do not be discouraged if the first request did not get approved.
Can a felon join the Army?
Joining the army as a felon is not impossible, but very difficult. The Army recruiter typically makes the decision on whether to admit someone into the Army, so it goes case by case. The Army does not automatically reject recruits for their criminal record, they are just held to a higher standard than recruits that do not have a criminal record.
Can a felon take the bar exam?
Yes, only one state, Mississippi restricts felons from taking the bar exam. Felons are able to attend college and law schools. Felons may not have access to Federal funding programs such as FAFSA due to their status as a convicted felon, but that still does not stop them from pursing school.
Can a felon become a teacher?
In many states, a felon is able to become a teacher so long as the felony is not of violent nature. Most commonly, teachers that have a felony on their record have a felony from financial crime, such as tax evasion or fraud. Crimes of these nature do not disqualify felons from teaching. Time is also on a felons side as well, if the non-violent felony was committed over a decade ago, their chances of hire are higher due to the fact that background checks do not go past the 10 year mark (unless the background check is designed to go that far due to special request).
The path to becoming a teacher looks different for every felon. Some jurisdictions outright prohibit felons from becoming a teacher or working in any profession that deals with children, while some areas require the felon to get a rehabilitation certificate. Others allow felons to teach on a case-by-case basis.
Can a felon run and/or hold political office?
Yes. A felon has the exact same rights as anyone else to run and/or hold public office. It is important to note that even though a felon can hold public office, other members of government can motion to expel the felon on the grounds of that member being unfit or unqualified to hold the office.
In the senate for example, if a felon was to win the election and become a United States Senator, the felon’s counterparts in congress could make a motion to expel the felon on the grounds that due to the felons conviction and criminal record, that the felon is not fitted to serve. This is a rare occurrence and really only happens for political reasons, not character issues, but it is possible.
The motion to expel someone from congress can be on any terms deemed appropriate as well, it does not just go for felons; in fact, a felon could make a motion to expel a member of congress themselves. Once the felon is a member of congress, they have the same authority as most of their counterparts.
Can a felon go to a gun show/gun showcase?
A felon is allowed to be around guns, the only constraint placed on felons pertaining to guns is that they may not own or possess them. If a felon wants to go with a friend to a gun show they are able to, so long as they do not handle any firearms.
Thank You for reading! Do you think felons should be able to own firearms? If it were up to you, what would you do? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!