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Can a Felon Live with Someone Who Owns a Gun?

September 27, 2017
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Most state laws, as well as federal law, prohibit anyone convicted of a felony from possessing firearms or ammunition.  The legal penalties for being a felon in possession of a firearm can be severe. However, people with criminal convictions often have questions about firearm possession and ownership. A popular question that we hear is, can a felon own a gun? If an ex-felon successfully restores their firearm rights, it’s possible for them to legally own a gun. Another common question we receive: can a felon live with someone who owns a gun?

In certain cases a felon can have their firearm rights restored. For example, you may apply to restore your firearm rights in New York through a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities. But, because of the complexities of state and federal law, it’s best to consult an attorney. Regardless, if you have a felony criminal record, and live with a gun owner, do you know what to expect?

A Felon in Possession of Firearms

Picture the following scenario.  You have a conviction for a felony or serious misdemeanor.  Because of your criminal record, you cannot legally purchase or possess firearms. However, a significant other, a roommate, or a family member may want to exercise their Second Amendment rights. In many cases, they own a firearm to protect themselves and their residence. Yet, is it unlawful to live with this person when you are barred from gun ownership? Is the person you live with in danger of aiding and abetting the illegal possession of firearms?

First, take note that possession is not the same as ownership. What’s important in these cases is that the convicted felon is not in possession of the firearm. However, you can be guilty of constructive possession if the following are true:

  • The felon knows that the firearm was in the home
  • The person had the ability to maintain control over the firearm

A felon can be found in possession of a firearm without ever physically handling the gun. Some courts have found people guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm for this reason. Therefore, if your spouse keeps a loaded gun in the nightstand, and you know it’s there, you can be charged with a crime.[1] Or, there was a case of an individual being found in constructive possession of a firearm when a gun was in the truck of a car he borrowed.[2]

Finally, the person who was a lawful gun owner can potentially be criminally liable. Whether a crime has been committed will depend on the circumstances and state law.

What Should I Do to Avoid Prosecution?

The safest option for felons and their housemates is to avoid having a gun in the house altogether.  Although every case is different, sometimes it’s not worth the risk of criminal charges. Hypothetically, precautions such as locking the gun in a safe – with the non-felon having the key – can be taken. However, some terms of release state that you cannot have a firearm in the residence at all. In most scenarios, a prosecutor could still argue that the felon exercised some sort of control over the gun. Since possession of a firearm can be actual or constructive, it’s usually a lose-lose situation.

If you have a conviction that prevents you from owning a gun, it’s best to consult an experienced attorney. Many ex-offenders can be eligible for firearm rights restoration, depending on the state. Take our updated eligibility test to see if you qualify for this, or one of our expungement services.

[1] United States v. Boykin, 986 F.2d 270 (8th Cir. 1993)

[2] United States v. Eldridge, 984 F.2d 943 (8th Cir. 1993)

Comments ( 34 )

  1. Brian says:

    Can a felon own a BB gun?

    • DanielWR says:

      Brian, it’s possible for a felon to own a BB gun. However, all states have different laws, so it’s best to check your local rules.

  2. Colette says:

    Can a convicted felon live in a home where there is a loaded gun and a minor child also lives in the home?

  3. Larry OBrien says:

    My step daughter is a convicted felon and up for parole in June. Can she live with us temporary. The work that I do requires me to have a firearm. Will this be an issue. I do have a gun safe and an ammo safe.

  4. Shawna says:

    I want to get my gun rights back! What do I need to do and how do I do it.

  5. Dan says:

    The answer is no.

  6. Thomas says:

    me and my pregnant wife live with a gun owner,we were homeless he took us in he has no legs and a lot money i’m taking care of him. i’m on parole will my parole get violated

  7. Walter says:

    I have guns in my safe is it alright if my son stays here under a felony

  8. Cindy Mode says:

    I am a felon can i be around someone that owns guns

  9. Lynn Hurd says:

    My daughter and son are both felons if my guns are locked in a safe can they still live with me temporarily. I live in Kentucky

  10. Pat Gilbert says:

    Can a felon live in the house where the gun is unloaded and locked in the safe?

  11. james karns says:

    my ex is engaged to a know felon and there are many guns on the premises. can she get in trouble knowing he is.?

  12. Tyrone jett says:

    I have a homicide over 2t years ago i served no jail time, it was my father..he kept beating my mother for years, we struggled and he was stabbed, then he died..can i get my gun rights back? I didn’t use a gun, it was a knife

  13. Tyrone says:

    I have a homicide over 25 years ago i served no jail time, it was my father..he kept beating my mother for years, we struggled and he was stabbed, then he died..can i get my gun rights back? I didn’t use a gun, it was a knife

  14. B.J. says:

    In the state of Mississippi what are the rules of having liquor and firearms in a home where a federal parolee will be living . If the guns are locked in a gun safe will the felon or myself be violating parole?

  15. vicki says:

    can a felon be charged with possession of firearm even if he has no knowlege it was in the car that he was the passenger

  16. Jerry says:

    What if a lawful gun owner has the weapon locked in a safe? Is there still grounds for the felon and/or the lawful gun owner to be criminally liable?

  17. Teresa says:

    If I have guns in my home can my son live on the property in a camper without getting A Felon in Possession of Firearms charges?

  18. Mernia says:

    One of the gun was locked in a safe and then the cops broke into your house shattered the safe and then convicted your husband or trying to convince him because he is a felon how is that right when he was not in possession of the gun

  19. Keith says:

    Live in CA. Have non-violent felon (drug possession) moving into my house. Guns are unloaded and locked in gun cabinet. Each gun is also locked with trigger or cable lock. Can I be held liable? Can he live here without fear of prosecution?

  20. Richard Majerus says:

    If there is a gun in the house that doesn’t work and I’m a felon can I still be charged with felon in possession of a fire arm

  21. David says:

    I just wanted to comment on the BB gun question. There is no reason that a felon shouldn’t be able to own a BB gun. Legally and scientifically speaking a BB gun is not a firearm. To be a firearm the projectile must be propelled by a controlled explosion. Example: Gun powder in a bullet casing being ignited by the firing pin striking the primer/casing to ignite the powder and propel the projectile/bullet down the barrel toward a target. A BB gun operates on the compression of air and subsequent release behind the projectile to propel it forward. Calling a BB gun a firearm would be like calling a bow/crossbow a firearm. I also believe that people convicted of a non-violent, non-sexual, or drug related felony shouldn’t be banned from owning firearms.

  22. Dana says:

    I have two non violent felonies, can I work in a pawn shop that sells firearms? Or would it still technically be in possession of a firearm?

    • DanielWR says:

      Dana – good question. It’s likely that you’re able to work in a pawn shop that sells firearms, but you may be restricted from handling them. I would check with your employer, and also look further into state and federal laws which can apply.

  23. Christopher Mc Nees says:

    All of these comments pertain to the Brady Law. It doesn’t have to do with what type of weapon. What it has to do with is the speed of the projectile. No crossbows no compound bows anything that fires a bullet. The lot does State a black powder weapon design prior to a certain date is allowed. An old American Indian bow also is allowed

  24. Lamont says:

    I had an felony conviction 20 years ago non violent recieved straight probation afterwards my probation officer said my rights where restored Automatically in Missouri so I went and purchased several weapons after filling out the form ATF 4473 which says I’m exempt if my rights are restored so In 2019 Feb I got denied they said it was because of my case 20 years ago.
    My problem is why now and you already gave me weapons before, with the same record, I know what I can do, but why now why they let me get weapons what has changed or is somebody screwing up. I know I can get it set aside but that cost $$$$

  25. Christy Davis says:

    My daughter is in the police academy and I have an old felony on my record. Can she have her gun in my house?

  26. William Torrence says:

    My son was recently released from federal prison, and is now on federal probation. I am a police officer and obviously have weapons in my home. Will he be in violation of his probation if he resides with me?

  27. Roger mixon says:

    My wife is a felon how can I own my guns and protect my family with out her getting in trouble

  28. Zhane port says:

    I am 26 just inherited a old cap an ball 58 cal. From my dead grandfather I am a felon and got pulled over with the muzzeloader in my truck..I had no gun powder no lead no caps an I am facing prison time for a felon in possession of a fire arm in the 1st degree..doss this sound right can I possibly go to prison for taking my dead grandfathers muzzeloader to storage..I don’t understand I was told it has a bad barrel an not to shoot it sense I was a child now I am looking at a prison sentence?? Washington state really??

  29. Steven says:

    My moms boyfriend is a convicted felon , but can i still have my gun since i payed for it, its in my name , so would i have to keep it at a friend’s house or can i still keep it in the house an in my room

  30. David Turley says:

    I have two houses on the same piece of property I have firearms in my house can someone who is a convicted felon live in the other house technically there not living in a house with firearms but the houses are on the same piece of property

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