A few weeks back, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order restoring the political rights of over 200,000 convicted felons. An in-depth article discussing the order can be found here. Although Governor McAuliffe’s actions have ignited a firestorm of political debate across the Commonwealth and the country, the blanket restoration also leads to questions about convicted felons’ efforts to have their gun rights restored.
Prior to the April 22nd order, a convicted felon in Virginia needed to have their political rights restored via an application process with the Governor’s office. The qualifications and procedures for that process are expounded upon in this post. Essentially, you had to submit an application to the Governor’ office with certain supporting documentation and then you had to wait, sometimes up to six (6) months or more, for the Governor’s office to approve your application. With the Governors’ signature on April 22nd, over 200,000 felons took step one in their gun rights restoration process.
The question I have received in abundance since that order was signed is whether the restoration of political rights also extended to the restoration of firearm rights. The answer to that question is no, as laid out on the Commonwealth’s website dedicated to FAQs about the order, found here. Per that site, “The Governor’s proclamation only restore civil rights (the right to vote, serve on a jury, run for office, and become a notary public.). Pursuant to Section 18.2-308.2(C), individuals may petition the Circuit Court in the jurisdiction where they reside for a permit to possess, ship, or transport a firearm.” Even though the April 22 order does not extend to the restoration of firearm rights, a necessary roadbloack in that process – restoration of your political rights – has been removed.
If you are one of the 200,000-plus whose political rights were restored on April 22nd, and you would like to pursue restoration of your firearm rights, go to the Commonwealth’s website and look on the right-hand side of the page. There is a tab to “Look Up Your Status” where you can put in your particulars and the database will indicate if the order restored your political rights. If it did, request documentation that your rights have been restored. Once you do this, you will receive a letter and order in the mail illustrating that your political disabilities have been removed. This documentation will be helpful when building your petition to have your gun rights restored. After you take that step, contact counsel in your area for a consultation on petitioning the Circuit Court to have your firearm rights restored. In most jurisdictions, once the petition is completed and filed, you can have a hearing on the books in 4-6 weeks to determine whether the court will grant an order restoring your gun rights.