Does an Expungement Restore My Gun Rights?
Once you have been convicted of a felony, you lose your right to own a gun. But, what exactly are the rules for former felons and guns? Can an expungement or a pardon restore your rights?
When do I lose my gun rights?
Upon conviction of a felony, you are not legally allowed to own a gun, ride in a car with a gun, or live in a home with a gun. Note this is upon conviction; being charged with a felony is not sufficient to remove your gun rights. If you were previously charged with a felony, and plead to a misdemeanor as part of a plea deal, you have not lost your right to own a gun.
However, any felony conviction is sufficient, even if the crime didn’t involve guns. It’s a common misconception that you only lose your gun rights if your crime was a violent felony or involved a gun. This is not the case, and any felony conviction will prevent you from being able to legally own a gun.
A felony isn’t the only thing that will prevent you from owning a gun. If you are convicted of domestic assault and battery, even if it is a misdemeanor, you cannot legally purchase a gun. Likewise, if you have a protective order against you, you cannot legally own a gun for the duration of that protective order.
Can I own a gun because Oklahoma has constitutional carry?
Oklahoma has enacted constitutional carry, which allows citizens to carry a gun either in the open or concealed, without obtaining a concealed carry permit. However, this new law did not change the existing gun laws for convicted felons. Once convicted of a felony, you cannot obtain a concealed carry license; the enactment of constitutional carry doesn’t create a loophole that allows you to have a gun. Gun ownership (or in some circumstances, physical proximity to a gun) is sufficient to violate the law.
In short, whether Oklahoma reverts to previous gun laws or maintains constitutional carry, you cannot carry or own a gun if you have a prior felony conviction.
When will I get my gun rights back?
You won’t unless you take action. The law preventing you from owning a gun will last for the entirety of your life. You have to take active steps to get your gun rights back.
What happens if I purchase a gun anyway?
If you purchase a gun despite having a felony conviction, you are guilty of possession of a firearm after a former conviction of a felony. This carries a punishment of 1 to 10 years in prison, or possibly more if you have an extensive criminal record.
What qualifies as a violation of the firearm possession rule?
The term “firearm” does not apply solely to guns. It includes ammunition, altered toy pistols (toy guns), and altered air pistols (air guns). If you have a prior felony conviction and are found to be in possession of a toy gun, this is a violation of the law and you can be charged the same way as if you had an actual gun.
Additionally, gun ownership is not required to violate the law. While there are safeguards in place to prevent you from owning a gun, any backdoor methods of having access to a gun are also prohibited. For example, if you have been convicted of a felony and your spouse has not, your spouse cannot own a gun and keep it inside your home. It is a violation of the law to live in the same home as a gun. You also cannot ride in a car with a gun. Even if the gun is in the backseat and you are in the front passenger seat of the car, you are in violation of the law.
If someone breaks into my house, what do I do?
You have the right to stand your ground during a break-in, just like every other person. While you aren’t required to flee your home, your inability to own a gun puts you at a serious disadvantage if the person breaking in DOES have a gun.
Can I get a job that requires me to use a gun?
No. Regardless of your reason for being around a gun, it isn’t legally allowed. Your conviction can be 40 years old, and you may decide you want to leave your job and become a police officer. You still cannot carry a gun, or even be in the car with a gun.
Can I partake in gun-related activities, such as hunting, as long as it isn’t my gun?
No. Anything that would require you to be within close proximity to or operating a gun can be a violation. No gun-related activities, period. Technically, the law doesn’t even allow toy guns; meaning that paintball and laser tag could also be considered a violation of this law. While most officers aren’t patrolling paintball fields and asking if anyone has been convicted of a felony, it technically is a violation of the law, and is something to be mindful of when you plan activities with your family and friends.
If I get my case fully expunged, can I buy a gun?
No. While a full expungement does mean you can legally answer that you’ve never been convicted of a crime, it does not restore your gun rights. This applies to both individuals who have prior felony convictions, as well as those who have prior misdemeanor domestic assault and battery convictions.
What do I need to do to get my gun rights back?
The only way to restore your gun rights is to get a gubernatorial pardon. This can be a long and drawn-out process, but is not a substitute for an expungement. An expungement will clear your criminal record; a pardon will restore the rights you had before you were convicted of a crime. They provide separate benefits. The expungement prevents people from seeing the case in public databases. A pardon does not remove your case from public databases. Instead, it restores your voting and gun rights.
How do I get a pardon?
To get a pardon, you must first send an application to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. In additional to this application, you must include:
- Certified judgment and sentence from your case;
- Certified statement from the court clerk showing you have paid all related financial obligations;
- Credit report from the past 120 days;
- Verification of residence (this can be a rental receipt, mortgage statement, deed, or lease agreement, but cannot be utility bills); and
- Verification of employment (such as current pay stub, benefit statement, or tax return)
In addition to these required items, you can submit character affidavits. These are highly recommended when you are requesting a pardon, and will allow the board an opportunity to learn more about you as a person instead of only knowing your crime. You must provide the board with the name, address, work phone number, and home phone number of anyone who writes a character affidavit. Additionally, you will need to get these affidavits notarized.
You will send all materials to the Pardon and Parole Board. They will review the documents you provide, as well as additional materials they request from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI). The board sends a recommendation, either that your pardon be denied or approved, to the governor, and the governor makes a decision on your case. ONLY the governor can provide you with a pardon.
Can I own a gun after I receive a pardon?
Assuming you don’t have any other criminal convictions, yes. Once the certificate of your pardon has been filed with the Secretary of State, you can own a gun and register to vote.
The Bottom Line
While an expungement is a great thing and we highly recommend getting one, it doesn’t restore your gun rights. The only way to get your gun rights back after a felony conviction is through a gubernatorial pardon.