Under the United States Constitution, citizens have the right to bear arms per the Second Amendment. However, most state laws as well as federal law prohibit convicted felons from possessing firearms or ammunition. An ex-felon in possession of a firearm in Louisiana can face severe penalties unless he or she is capable of having his or her rights to own those firearms restored.
If you’re wondering how a felony conviction can affect your Second Amendment Rights, it’s important to understand some of the laws that have been passed in the past several decades to limit gun rights in the United States.
Gun Control Act of 1968
The Gun Control Act of 1968 was a landmark piece of legislation as far as its effects on felons. It marked the first time the United States government would legislate rights for felons.
- Deemed Possession of Firearms or Ammunition Illegal- Under this law, felons were prohibited from owning or possessing firearms or ammunition
- Lacked stringent background checks- While it was assumed proper protocol would be followed by lawful gun salespersons, the law could not restrict private point-of-sale transactions to felons.
While the 1996 Lautenberg Amendment is more or less an “add-on” piece of legislation, it did result in a few significant consequences for felons and non-felons alike in regards to possession of firearms and ammunition:
- Guidelines for injunctions and protective orders- While injunctions and protective orders are not necessarily criminal in nature, the Lautenberg Amendment opened the door for these civil injunctions to concurrently serve as prohibitions on firearm or ammunition possession.
- Domestic violence offenders banned from firearm ownership- Regardless of whether or not an offender is convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, any convictions related to domestic violence automatically disqualify offenders from owning firearms or ammunition.
Federal Felon Firearm Laws Versus Louisiana Law
A felony conviction in Louisiana is not a “death sentence” for your firearm ownership rights.
There are two particular options for felons looking to restore their right to bear arms in the state of Louisiana:
- Instant restoration- In very rare instances, instant restoration of firearm ownership occurs following the completion of a felony sentence.
- Restoration after 10 years- If 10 years have passed, many Louisiana felons can reclaim their firearm ownership rights but only after their record is expunged.
Aside from these two options, there are alternative solutions to reclaim your Louisiana firearm ownership rights as a felon.
Alternative Options for Restoring Your Firearm Rights
As a felon, your options for legal possession of firearms are limited. Additionally, these options often carry a low probability of success.
Civil Rights Restoration
Under Louisiana state law, any felonious conviction that “was expunged or set aside for which a person has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored shall not be considered a conviction” under federal law.
Under federal law, the federal court would delegate the final say to the local jurisdiction. In the case of Louisiana, no such expungement exists; formalized “restoration” of civil rights regarding gun ownership is also absent. Due to the necessity of expungement in the eyes of the federal lawmakers, this paradox posed issues for a considerable amount of time until 2016 amendments to Louisiana law were finalized.
2016 Amendments to Louisiana Firearms Law- In 2016, the state of Louisiana created three exceptions enabling felons to reclaim their firearms. Per these amendments, the felon in question must meet the requirements to have his or her gun rights restored:
- Was convicted of a non-violent, non-sexual crime
- Had a deferred sentence
- More than 10 years have passed since the completion of their sentence
ATF Felony Firearm Waivers
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), which oversees federal firearm enforcement, allows felons to petition the ATF for full restoration of their Second Amendment rights in Louisiana. There are, however, a few obstacles that prevent most of these waivers from ever being approved or examined in considerable depth.
Aside from being able to prove a felon does not pose a threat to the public-at-large, they must wade through considerable red tape:
- Money issues- Due to a lack of a budget for many of these waivers, many times, the ATF simply sends the waiver back without processing it. Thereby rendering any attempts to claim a waiver as null and void.
- Inability to expedite the process- The Supreme Court has ruled that felons cannot compel the ATF to expedite the procession of waiver claims.
While the exception does exist, it is among the lower probability options for those looking to reclaim their firearm rights. Aside from compelling the state to restore your rights, careful examination of firearms laws actually opens the door to some notable exceptions
Under federal law, not all “guns” are considered by definition to be “firearms.” Exceptions to this rule include so-called “black powder weapons” or “muzzleloaders.” These antiquated firearms are remnants of centuries past, but they are still used and owned by many gun historians and enthusiasts.
Under federal law, these antiquated firearms are considered “antique firearms,” and many are thereby not banned.
Criteria for a weapon to be considered an antique firearm:
- Manufactured on or before 1898
- Use black powder or black powder substitute instead of cartridge or magazine
- Cannot be easily converted to fire cartridges or traditional rimfire ammunition
As long as a weapon meets the aforementioned criteria, a felon may own, possess, or purchase an antique firearm. It should be noted, however, that certain parishes or municipalities in Louisiana still consider many “antique firearms” to be firearms, thereby rendering the antique firearm “loophole” as irrelevant.
As the only “100-percent sure” way of reclaiming your Second Amendment rights as a felon, a governor’s pardon with full restoration of rights is a common method for many felons. They are granted on a very limited basis, and all appeals must be made directly to the Louisiana Board of Paroles and Pardons. Separate “first-offender” pardons also exist, but gubernatorial pardons are typically reserved for repeat offenders.
If you believe you may be eligible to reclaim your gun rights in Louisiana, contact a Louisiana criminal defense attorney with specific firearms experience.
Hiring a Louisiana Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve been convicted of a felony under Louisiana law, you may be eligible to restore your 2nd Amendment rights. A criminal defense attorney in Louisiana can guide you through the process of reclaiming your rights, and they can even reexamine your case to make the most favorable recommendation.
The John D. & Eric G. Johnson Law Firm is highly-experienced as it pertains to criminal defense cases. Our firm is dedicated to defending and upholding the rights of all citizens, regardless of the charges they face. Let us fight on your behalf to reclaim your second amendment rights.