New Legislation Regarding the Restoration of Felons’ Gun Rights

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I’ve blogged previously about the Britt and Whitaker cases. Britt held that a particular convicted felon retained his right to bear arms under the state constitution, and that G.S. 14-415.1 — which purports to prohibit all felons from possessing firearms — was unconstitutional as applied to him. Whitaker rejected a similar claim made by another convicted felon and made clear that Britt was an exceptional result, driven by the fact that  the plaintiff in Britt had committed a single, non-violent felony many years earlier, and had since remained completely out of trouble.

Rather than wait for the courts to accumulate case law about which felons are entitled to possess guns and which are not, the General Assembly jumped into the issue during the just-concluded session. It enacted S.L. 2010-108, which attempts to clarify and limit the circumstances under which felons may retain or regain their gun rights. The statute appears to be consistent with the thrust of Britt and Whitaker, although I am sure that it will be challenged by someone who falls outside its scope.

My colleague John Rubin has drafted the following excellent summary of the legislation, for those interested in a bit more detail. I grateful for his willingness to share it:

[The law] [a]mends various statutes, described below, to allow people convicted of certain felonies to apply for restoration of the right to possess firearms and to create an exception from the firearm restrictions for certain white collar criminal convictions. Provides that changes become effective February 1, 2011, and apply to offenses committed on or after that date. Also directs North Carolina Attorney General, effective July 20, 2010, to request the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies to review these changes and determine whether a person who qualifies under them may purchase and possess a firearm under federal firearms restrictions.

New G.S. 14-415.4 contains the new restoration procedures. The new statute gives the responsibility for hearing restoration petitions to the district court in the district where the person resides. New G.S. 14-415.4(i) states that restoration does not constitute an expunction or pardon, and G.S. 14-415.4(l) states that the knowing and willful submission of false information is a Class 1 misdemeanor and permanently bars restoration of firearm rights.

The initial prerequisite for restoration is that the person must have no more than one conviction for a “nonviolent felony,” which does not include any Class A, B1, or B2 felony or any Class C through I felony that involves an assault as an essential element, possession or use of a firearm or deadly weapon as an essential or nonessential element, or other specified circumstances. Multiple nonviolent felony convictions arising out of the same event and consolidated for sentencing count as one felony. A person is ineligible for restoration for various reasons listed in the statute, including having been adjudicated guilty of or having received a prayer for judgment continued or a suspended sentence for one or more misdemeanor crimes of violence or other listed misdemeanors. To obtain restoration, the person must have had their civil rights restored for at least 20 years, which typically occurs automatically under G.S. 13-1 following a person’s completion of all incidents of his or her sentence. The new statute also states that a person who was convicted of a nonviolent felony in another jurisdiction is eligible for restoration if his or her civil rights, including the right to possess a firearm, have been restored for at least 20 years in the other jurisdiction; this provision may inadvertently make the waiting period for restoration of firearm rights in North Carolina considerably longer for people with convictions from other jurisdictions because they may not be able to obtain restoration of their firearm rights in the other jurisdiction for some time after their citizenship rights have been restored there. New G.S. 14-415.4 establishes other criteria a person must satisfy to obtain restoration of firearm rights, such as a one-year period of residency in North Carolina.

The act amends G.S. 14-415.1 (possession of firearm by a felon) to provide that a convicted felon whose firearm rights have been restored is not subject to the prohibition in that statute; similarly, the act amends G.S. 14-404(c) (handgun permits) and G.S. 14-415.12(b) (concealed handgun permits) to provide that people whose firearms rights have been restored are eligible to obtain the indicated permits if they meet the other criteria for issuance. The act also amends the above statutes to exempt from the firearms restrictions felony convictions pertaining to antitrust violations, unfair trade practices, or restraints of trade. People convicted of these felonies do not need to apply for restoration of their firearms rights (unless convicted of other nonviolent felonies); the changes exempt them from the firearms restrictions.

228 comments on “New Legislation Regarding the Restoration of Felons’ Gun Rights

  1. All these fkn criminals trying to get their guns back… wtf!

    You made poor choices now, you think you can be trusted to make good choices now?

    People who make poor choices in life should not be handling firearms, in ANY capacity.

    I agree w/Federal Law.
    Once a Criminal always a criminal…
    Once a Con always a Con no such thing as X-Con.. unless it’s a Con in sheeple clothing.

    It may be your right to bear, but what you do with your right can either get it taken away or secured. Becoming a criminal is definitely one way to get it taken away. Upholding the law of the land and not giving into peer pressure, is one way of securing your right to bear.

    But since most of you have chosen poorly, you have only the right to “bare” arms, not the right to bear arms.

    “Guess you should of thought of that beforehand!”
    What’s it matter now anyways?

    • You sir are A hard case, no second chance for “some” folks that may of gotten in a little trouble thirty years ago? But pay taxes and hold a job. I agree some cases dont need reinstating, But some should. I beleive you are without sin and should be considered for sainthood… And you should cast the first stone!

    • You cannot judge a man in life by what he has done but judge him on who he has become and the goodness he accomplished everyone makes mistakes its in human nature to make mistakes its what we learn from them that matters

    • I was and passed out drunk in a vehicle i was in the people i trusted broke into a sportsmans club for alcohol and cigarettes. I awoke the next morning with police at my door saying i committed a felony…the people i was with involved my name although i was passed out and they took me home after their crime..after hours of questions the officer told me if i would just say i was there then i would be released immediately. I was not released for 3 days..i recieved a puplic defender that said if i plead guilty i would serve 20 days county and he would have my record sealed and firearms rights restored as my goal was to be a police officer..this public defender went on to become a felon stealing from my home town..he was crooked from the start..he should have had my charges dropped instantly instead of kissing the prosecutors ass…i personally got my record sealed and got my firearms rights restored without a attorney.. My next step is to recieve a governors pardon so now at age 42 i can fulfill my dream of beinga police officer at least get 25 years in on a police force…just because someone has had their rights taken dosent mean that their a criminal who shouldnt get a chance to fulfill their dream..whatever that dream may be

    • [Removed by editor] you expect these people to pay taxes and all the other things that society requires but want to keep them from protecting themselves and their families?you are an idiot,some of the most decent ,honest people I know are convicted felons,and if ignorance were a felony you would be a repeat offender,remember that drink you had before driving home ?Felony, dumbass,and this really isnt even the issue,what most don’t understand is the fact that the bill of rights were not written to limit the power of the people, but the government,these are GOD given rights,and the government has no power to deny or restrict ANY of them,any law that that is contrary to the constitution is deemed unconstitutional and there fore need not be followed [Removed by editor.]

  2. In reality, imprisonment is a way of paying the price to society and restitution. Once you have paid your price and allowed back into society the government has decided you are ok to go back into society. All rights could be reinstated. The 2nd amendment does not say we have a right to bear arms…………unless you once did a crime or are a nut case. Gun owners scream registration and confiscation and hate any laws of any gun control. “That is not in the Constitution”, they cry. But banning ex-cons from having a gun is not in the Constitution yet we embrace the concept. So criminal’s have either paid their price to society and could be reinstated with full rights or keep considering them as criminals with no rights. I feel the law forbidding ex-cons from having guns is good even if it is not provided in the Constitution. That said we should stop accusing the government of making any laws to be disarming us so they can set up an unlikely tyranny. Stop the paranoia.

    • How do I actually apply for this restoration of rights?

  3. Born January 16th 1999 I committed a crime I have broken the law, my crime was a non-violent crime. I have served 5 years and 9 months in the incarceration field, since then, I have been out of my dark times, and I have been in the light of peace and avoided trouble. I am looking forward to restoring my gun rights and the rights to go outside of the United States for vacations.

  4. Grew up with amazing parents. Taught me right from wrong. High achieving student through my sophomore year in high school. That summer I got mixed up with a crowd that started me on meth. Ended up with some misdemeanor charges as a minor from the ages of 16 to 18. Caught a burglary charge at 18, for stealing some tools out of an open garage, to buy meth with. Caught a petty theft with a prior for stealing a bottle of booze to try to come down off the meth one night, at 22 years old. Got out of prison at 23 years old.

    When I got home I knew that I couldn’t be around my old friends. Moved away with a great woman that I met. Worked for a landscape company for 4 bucks an hour for 2 years. It was small, and I bought it from the owner 2 years later, when he retired……he let me make payments. I grew the business and made a decent life. Eventually left for a county road department job, with all the benefits that a government job offers. I took their sign and traffic signal department from the cave to modern days. Became a foreman within 8 years and am on track to be the Roads Superintendent when the current one retires in 5 years.

    Raised 4 wonderful children. Have 9 awesome grand children. Been with the same woman for 24 years. Own my own home. Volunteer my time and money to my community, and am well respected here. But even though my felony crimes (non violent) are 24 years old, and I have been a completely different person for all of those 24 years, I still can’t own a rifle to go hunting with my friends, or a hand gun to be able to protect my family in my home.

    I understand the need to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. But when a person has clearly put their past behind them, I believe that they should have their gun rights reinstated. Far, far more “dangerous” or irresponsible people than the man I have been for the majority of my life, and am now, are purchasing guns today.

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