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.

223 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

  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?

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