If you are convicted of a felony offense at the state or federal level, you automatically lose the right to have a firearm in the United States. However, there are legal paths to restoring your gun ownership privileges in Virginia following a felony conviction. In order to restore your gun rights, you must petition the state court through a series of complex legal steps. A Virginia attorney with experience in handling the restoration of rights will be able to explain each of the following options to you and advise which choice is best for you.
Pardon or Political Disabilities Removed
The first option for restoring gun ownership rights is through a pardon or by having your political disabilities removed pursuant to Virginia law. Article V, Section 12 of the state’s constitution provides the mechanism for removing political disabilities. The other option is a Governor’s pardon, which comes from the governor’s desk. There are three types of governor’s pardons – simple, conditional, and absolute.
A simple pardon is a statement of forgiveness following a conviction when you provide proof that you have rehabilitated yourself and can only be submitted at least 10 years after the conviction and any probation time. A conditional pardon is early release for currently incarcerated inmates. An absolute pardon is an official statement saying that you did not commit the crime for which you were convicted. This removes the conviction from your criminal record and automatically restores any political disabilities that occurred as a result of the conviction for the felony offense.
State Court Petition
The next option to restoring gun ownership rights is by petitioning the state circuit court and requesting permission to once again ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms. In addition to petitioning the state court, you must simultaneously petition the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) for the removal of political disabilities at the federal level. However, it is very important to note that having the ATF remove federal political disabilities does not restore your gun ownership rights at the federal level. This only helps restore them in Virginia, specifically.
If your felony conviction occurred out of state, your gun rights must be restored in the state where the conviction took place. Every state has its own set of rules and procedures for restoring rights, so you should consult an attorney in that state to know the best way forward.
If your felony conviction happened at the federal level, the only viable option for the restoration of gun ownership rights is through a presidential pardon. Until 1992, the ATF was able to process these petitions for gun ownership rights restoration, but as of today the only option at the federal level is for the President to pardon any political disabilities to restore those rights.
Contact a Virginia Lawyer
If you have been convicted of a felony and wish to have your gun ownership rights restored, you need an experienced attorney by your side to help you through the process.