According to Virginia law and federal law, any person convicted of a felony loses their firearm rights. If you or someone you know has been convicted of a felony, be aware that certain avenues exist to restore gun rights following revocation, although eligibility is not universal.
Upon conviction of a felony, the loss of your gun rights is automatic, regardless of the facts of your case. Virginia law states that you must have your political rights restored before you can petition to have your gun rights restored. Political rights include your right to vote, serve on a jury, and run for public office. If your felony was non-violent, or you were released from custody before July 15th, 2013, then you have already had your political rights restored. Otherwise, you will have to apply through the Governor’s office. And if your felony was deemed violent, you may have to wait a certain period of time before filing your application.
You may be able to restore your gun rights in one of the following four scenarios.
1 – You must receive a pardon or have your political disabilities removed (or have your political rights restored) under Virginia’s Constitution. In this situation, the executive order reinstating your gun rights must not place conditions on subsequently restoring your firearm rights.
2 – If you are a resident of Virginia and you were convicted of a felony offense, you need to petition the circuit court in your jurisdiction and request permission to purchase, possess or carry a firearm. If you reside outside of Virginia, you would file in the circuit court where you received your disqualifying felony conviction. You would also need to have all your other political rights restored by the Governor, or have the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) remove your federal disabilities. However, the ATF cannot restore your federal gun rights due to a Congressional decision made in 1992, which cut off the funding they need to process applications. In other words, this option is not currently possible.
3 – If you have an out-of-state felony conviction, your gun rights must be restored by that state. Every state has its own distinct protocols for gun rights restoration, so make sure you consult an attorney who practices in the state where your disqualifying conviction occurred.
4 – In cases of a felony conviction issued by a federal court, you only have one viable option for gun rights restoration: you must request a presidential pardon for your federal offense through the US Department of Justice. The ATF cannot currently remove your firearm disabilities. Because of a Congressional decision made in 1992, the ATF no longer receives the funding it needs to process the necessary applications. That means if you were convicted of a felony in a federal court, there is currently no way to reinstate your gun rights unless you receive a presidential pardon.
It is important to note that under federal law, if you were convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence in Virginia, there is currently no mechanism in place for you to have your gun rights restored. Since Virginia’s narrow expungement statute does not provide an adequate remedy for convictions, there is currently no way to remove this firearms impediment outside of a pardon. Absent a pardon, a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence conviction in Virginia permanently disqualifies you from having your gun rights restored.
The firearm rights restoration process is different state-to-state. If you are a Virginia resident, you should file your petition in the circuit court for the city or county where you reside. If you live outside the state, you will file in the circuit court for the city or county where your disqualifying felony conviction occurred. Once the petition is filed, a hearing date will be set. At the hearing, the court will determine whether or not there is “good cause” to grant your request. The judge will look at the seriousness of your crime, your criminal history, and your motivations for wanting to have your gun rights restored, among other factors.
An experienced attorney can help you understand your eligibility, navigate the petition process, and advocate for the restoration of your gun rights. Contact my office today to get started. We will make the best possible case to have your rights restored.