Why Can’t Felons Own a Firearm?

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A felony is generally defined as a crime that is punishable by more than one year in prison. These are usually more serious crimes such as murder, sexual assault, and other types of crimes. When a person is convicted of a felony, they can lose several rights, like the right to vote and the right to possess a firearm. 

There are multiple reasons behind this firearm law. For one, if the person was convicted of a violent felony, especially one involving a firearm, then not allowing them to own one may help prevent instances of a repeat offense. Another reason is that it may serve as a deterrent for people to commit felony crimes. 

There may be some differences between state and federal felony sentencing guidelines and a loss of privileges such as the right to own a firearm. Also, there may be different definitions with regard to what a firearm is (like a handgun vs. a flare gun). There may also be exceptions when it comes to white collar felony crimes. 

You may need to check with an attorney for the exact details of such laws, especially the laws of your state, as they may be different from other state laws. 

What Weapons Can a Felon Own?

While persons convicted of a felony usually can’t own a firearm, they may sometimes be able to own other types of weapons. They may still have a right to protect themselves and their homes using certain weapons, which also may vary by state law. These may include weapons such as:

  • Knives with blades not longer than a certain length (such as four inches);
  • Crossbows or bows and arrows;
  • Pellet guns; and
  • Certain other weapons, depending on the local laws.

Again, you may need to check your state’s laws or consult with an attorney to determine what types of weapons are allowed for felons in your area. Convicted felons must still obey any types of laws or restrictions associated with these types of weapons. 

As you can see, the above list can still allow felons the ability to go hunting. So the purpose of barring felons from owning firearms is not to remove their ability to go hunting or defend themselves, but to deter or prevent the use of a firearm to commit a crime. 

Can a Felon Be Around Firearms?

Generally speaking, felons are still allowed to associate with or be around someone who owns a gun. However, things can get tricky if the gun is around or if the person lives with them. There are some instances where a convicted felon may be found guilty of “constructive possession” of a firearm. This can happen if:

  • The convicted felon knew that the firearm was in the home or residence, and
  • The felon had the ability to maintain control of the gun.

In some cases, a felon can be guilty of constructive possession without ever even handling the gun. This can also happen in situations where the firearm is in a truck or car (for instance, if they borrowed a car knowing that it contained a gun, or they were riding in a car that had a gun). 

Note that some laws make distinctions between a felon possessing a gun and a felon owning a gun. This can change the outcome of their criminal liability in these situations.

What Will Happen If a Felon Possess a Firearm?

Possession of a firearm by a felon is considered a felony crime in itself. It is usually punishable by a prison sentence ranging from one to three years, again depending on state laws. It may also be accompanied by criminal fines and other punishments. Being found guilty of this crime would naturally harm the person’s ability to ever own a firearm in the future.

Second or third offenses may result in even more severe criminal punishments. These can include longer prison sentences and higher fines.

Can a Felon’s Gun Rights Be Restored?

In many cases, a felon’s rights to own a gun can be restored. This can usually happen if the felony crime they were convicted of gets expunged or removed from their record. This can be difficult to do, as the person may often need to wait for several years after the conviction and maintain a clean criminal record afterward. However, it is possible to achieve.

In certain cases, state laws regarding felon gun ownership rights may be different from federal laws. Thus, if a person’s gun ownership rights are restored at the state level, they might still be barred from owning one at the federal level. It is advisable to check your state’s gun restoration laws to determine your eligibility if you have been convicted of a felony.

Should I Talk to a Lawyer If I Am Charged with Felony in Possession of a Firearm?

Loss of firearm or weapon ownership rights is a major issue for felony cases. This is especially the case for a felony gun charge. You may need to hire a criminal lawyer in your area for help with the specific laws of your state. Your attorney can provide you with guidance and representation for your felony case or legal issues.