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California Gun Restrictions

The Second Amendment right to bear arms is something that many Americans hold dear.  While this is a constitutional right, there are a number of ways your right to own a gun in California may be taken from you, including being a felon, misdemeanor convictions of certain domestic violence offenses, mental illnesses, and restraining orders. While these restrictions on gun ownership make a lot of sense in many situations, they can be overly-broad and take away fundamental constitutional rights from many otherwise law abiding Americans that pose no threat to society. Fortunately, these restrictions on gun ownership are not absolute, and in many instances our law firm can help restore your right to own a gun.  In the case of restraining orders, your right to own a gun is restored once the restraining order is lifted. For those committed to a mental institution, gun rights are taken away for five years, but a petition can be filed to terminate the five year restriction in many cases.

California Felony Convictions and Reductions

A felony conviction is much different, as it results in the loss of gun rights for life. However, if the felony conviction was for a crime which is considered a “wobbler,” or certain California crimes which may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, our law firm can often obtain a felony reduction and expungement which will typically restore your right to own a gun. For more information on “wobblers” and “felony reductions” please see our page on California Felony Reductions.  The list of offenses that are considered “wobblers” is quite extensive, and includes many serious crimes—to check and see if your offense is on this list of “wobblers” please see our list of “wobbler” offenses.

Misdemeanor Convictions Resulting in Loss of Gun Rights in California

It’s not only felonies that can take away your right to possess a firearm.  Certain misdemeanor convictions relating to domestic violence and weapons charges can result in the loss of your right to possess a gun. Conviction on certain misdemeanors can result to loss of firearms rights for ten years from the date of conviction. Expungment does not restore these rights. These convictions include:
  • Misdemeanors that are violent such as battery or assault;
  • Misdemeanors involving use of firearm or a deadly weapon;
  • Terrorist threats and stalking; and
  • Domestic violence offenses.
It is important to note that a conviction for a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence results in a lifetime ban on firearm ownership according to federal law.  The controversial Lautenberg Amendment to the federal Gun Control Act imposes this lifetime ban.

Restoration of CA Gun Rights

If you have lost your gun rights, it is possible to have them restored in California.  Convictions for certain violent and weapons related misdemeanors result in California taking away your firearm rights for a period of ten years. Unfortunately, expungement will not restore your ability to own a firearm in these circumstances, and the ten year waiting period begins on the date of conviction.  The two options for firearm right restoration are:
  1.  Obtaining a reduction of a felony wobbler conviction; or
  2.  A pardon from the California Governor.

The Federal Gun Control Act

Note that for misdemeanor domestic violence convictions, California may take away your right to own a gun for ten years, beginning on the date of conviction. However, the Federal Gun Control Act may impose a lifetime ban on your ability to own a gun.  California expungements will not affect firearm bans resulting from this federal law, which can be somewhat complex to interpret.  Due to this complexity, if you have questions relating to restoring your right to own a gun based on any of the above circumstances, it is best to contact an attorney to discuss your options.

Governor’s Pardon

If you were convicted of a California felony which does not qualify for reduction and expungement, you may be able to apply for a pardon from the Governor of California. This typically involves first filing a petition for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation with the superior court of your county of residence.  If you are granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation, an application for pardon is automatically sent to the Governor of California. In the end, the decision to grant your request for a pardon us ultimately in the hands of the Governor.  The pardon application process can be quite complicated, so please contact an attorney if you would like to discuss the process and the probability of obtaining a pardon.
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