Felony Restrictions

Owning a Gun

Can felons own guns? Is this governed by state or federal law? Does this apply to only certain types of guns or all guns?

In 1934 the government passed a law banning any person who had been convicted of a violent felony from owning a gun. This was in addition to an existing ban keeping violent felons from owning machine guns - the new law basically said that violent felons couldn't own any type of firearm.

This restriction was expanded in 1968 to include all felonies (not just violent ones). This practice continues to this day - except in rare circumstances where your civil rights are "restored" (this is only a possibility in a few states), or until your felony is expunged, you are not eligible under federal law to legally own a firearm.

Many felons don't realize this, but the federal ban on owning a firearm also applies to any type of ammunition - if you are caught with just a bullet you are in violation of this ban and subject to another felony (this one federal, meaning a lot more jail time and less chance of a pardon).

Does this only apply to concealed weapons?
Actually this law applies not only to concealed weapons, but also to any firearm that might be in your own. In the United States, felons are not legally allowed to bear arms - this is a point of controversy because it means in essence that you cannot defend yourself if somebody breaks into your home.

How can you legally own a gun again?
The easiest way to regain your right to bear arms is to have your felony expunged. Some states, however, offer felons the opportunity to own a handgun again after a certain amount of time has passed from the successful completion of probation. This is rare and there are many states, such as North Carolina, where a felon can never again own a weapon.

Are any types of felonies excluded?
Actually, 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20)(A) specifically exempts a few types of felonies:

...any Federal or State offenses pertaining to antitrust violations, unfair trade practices, restraints of trade, or other similar offenses relating to the regulation of business practices...