02 Sep Restoring Firearm Rights and the Federal Conflict
The second amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Over the years there has been a lot of debate over this specific amendment. In the most recent decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment… “Protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home…” This hot topic will likely continue be debated in the future by both sides of the argument. One thing is for certain, if convicted of a felony or a domestic violence offense in Washington State, your right to bear arms is revoked.
Once a conviction is obtained for a felony or domestic violence offense, the defendant is stripped of their right to own and possess firearms, temporarily in some cases. Other factors such as involuntary commitment may also cause a person to lose their right to possess firearms, but that is for another article. Once a defendant is sentenced in a felony or domestic violence matter, a “clock” starts. This clock is for persons wanting to restore their firearm rights. After five years from the date of sentencing for a felony matter the defendant may be eligible to restore their firearm rights, as long as they do not have a class A felony, sex crime, or a previous felony prohibiting their possession of firearms counted as part of their offender score. For domestic violence misdemeanors the waiting period is three years and has some additional qualifying factors listed on our site. To learn more about restoring firearm rights in Washington visit the linked page. To see if you qualify for firearm restoration contact an attorney to go over the specifics of your case.
Unfortunately, even if you restore your firearm rights, there is a conflict between State and Federal law. Currently there is no avenue to restore on a Federal level. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have cited budget cuts as a reason for the inability to review “Relief From Firearm Disabilities” applications. This does not constitute a denial of your application so you are not entitled to an appeal, this fact was proven in the case of U.S. v. Bean (2002). Since the application will be returned and not formally denied there is no right to an appeal. This puts up a large conflict between State and Federal law. Currently the only avenue for firearm restoration is a state-by-state basis. For instance, if you restore your right to possess firearms here in Washington State so you can hunt and protect your home, you are only restored in Washington State. If you plan on moving to another state you may need to also go through the restoration process in that state as well. You should consult a lawyer from your jurisdiction if you plan on traveling across many states on a road trip with a firearm. The largest issue would be specifically for hunters. Here in Washington there is a large amount of hunting land, some of which is controlled and maintained by the Federal Government. If you are on Federal Land, a Federal Officer stops you with a firearm and happens to run your name, however unlikely it may be, you may still be in violation of Federal Law. It is best to know the land you are hunting on to make sure you do not put yourself in this type of situation.
As you can see there are many nuances to restoring your firearm rights. Many people would naturally think, “felons are dangerous people, they should not have guns” due to the negative stigma surrounding felony charges. Not all felonies are the same, for instance, if you are a person that was convicted of illegal downloading back in 2001, a class C felony in some states, and have since then lead a life without any criminal issues and had no criminal behavior previous to the offense you are in fact a felon. You never assaulted anyone, you never robbed anyone, you weren’t a dangerous criminal, you may not have even been aware it was against the law at the time. The fact is you are still considered a felon. There are people who are convicted of felonies that are not a part of the “dangerous” group and they must go through the same process as any other felon. In our experience most people who want to restore firearm rights consist of three basic groups; those who want to protect themselves and their families, those who would like to carry on the tradition of hunting in their family, and those that have been bequeathed a firearms collection by their parents. These are not people who want to hurt anyone or further their illegal activity by use of force, these are people who have made mistakes in the past and rectified these mistakes and would just like to get on with life. The debate and conflict in firearm rights between state and federal law will likely continue until some sort of amicable agreement is met. Until then, it is best to stay informed and talk to an attorney if you have any questions to avoid serious complications.