Felony Gun Laws

Can felons carry guns? Do guns laws for felons vary by state? Are any states, such as Texas, particularly harsh on felons carrying guns? When is a felon eligible for a gun permit again?

Congress passed the first blanket prohibition on felons carrying guns in the Gun Control Act of 1968, which made it illegal for felons to possess a gun any under circumstances. The Firearm Owners' Protection Act, passed in 1986, reinforced the ban on felons carrying guns, and also banned people who have been convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year of imprisonment from possessing guns.

Congress later expanded federal gun control laws by passing what is commonly known as the Lautenberg Amendment, which prohibits persons who are subject to protective or restraining orders as a result of domestic violence, or who have been convicted of misdemeanor crimes involving domestic violence. Incidentally, these federal laws not only ban felons from possessing guns, but also from possessing any type or amount of ammunition.

In addition to the long-standing federal prohibition on felons possessing guns, there are also many state laws that limit the ability of a felon to legally carry a gun, some of which even predate the federal law. At one extreme, some states prohibit anyone who has been convicted of a felony, and even of certain misdemeanor crimes involving violence, from ever legally carrying a gun. Other states prohibit only those persons who have been convicted of certain violent felonies from carrying a gun.

There are also states where you might be able to legally carry a gun, even though you have been convicted of a felony, if a certain amount of time has passed since you finished serving your term of probation or incarceration. Plus, in the vast majority of states that restrict the possession of guns by felons, juveniles who have been convicted of crimes that would have been felonies had they been adults at the time of conviction are also prohibited from carrying guns. Thus, there are many variations in the exact details of the laws that restrict felons from carrying guns from state to state, but, despite the nature of the state law at issue, the bottom line is that federal law always prohibits felons from possessing guns.

In some states, there are procedures by which a felon could attempt to regain eligibility for a gun permit and/or to legally carry a gun. Federal law states that if a felon has his or her civil rights restored by the state in which he or she was convicted of the felony, then a felon might become eligible to carry a gun, subject, of course, to any state law restrictions on felons possessing guns.

A felon might have his or her civil rights restored, for example, if the felony conviction was expunged, overturned, pardoned, or otherwise set aside. Every state has different laws for these processes, and you must follow the procedures and laws of the state of your felony conviction in order to attempt to become eligible for legal gun possession. As a practical matter, however, there are some states whose laws do not provide for the restoration of the right to carry a gun for felons, such as North Carolina. In those states, then, there is simply no relief from the lifelong ban on a felon possessing a gun.

Seel also:
Felony Restrictions: Owning a Gun
Texas Gun Law