One of the many consequences of a felony conviction is that it strips an individual of certain civil rights, but what happens when the prison sentence has been served? One topic frequently discussed in the legal community is felons’ right to bear arms.
Federal Law vs. Louisiana Law
Louisiana state and federal law regarding felons and their gun rights are pretty similar. Under federal law, it is generally unlawful for someone convicted of a felony to possess firearms, with limited exceptions. Louisiana state law largely mirrors federal regulations, making it unlawful for felons to possess firearms.
However, Louisiana does provide a process for some individuals to potentially have their gun rights restored through a legal petition to the court. This process can restore firearms rights for non-violent felons who meet certain eligibility criteria and can demonstrate rehabilitation.
Despite similarities, there are nuances and differences between federal and state laws regarding gun possession by felons, and individuals should be aware of both sets of regulations to remain in compliance with the law. Below, we’ll briefly cover both state and federal gun laws over the years.
Gun Control Act of 1968
The Gun Control Act of 1968 was created following the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and Attorney General Robert Kennedy. It imposed stricter gun laws, making it more difficult for people to access firearms. This act also mandated that all guns should have serial numbers and established a federal system for background checks on potential buyers. This legislation also prohibited felons from owning or possessing any firearm or ammunition.
Firearm Owner’s Protection Act of 1986
The Firearm Owner’s Protection Act of 1986 is a federal law aimed at regulating firearms and protecting the rights of gun owners. This legislation made several important changes to existing gun laws, including the prohibition of a national firearms registry, the protection of the rights of individuals transporting firearms across state lines, and the loosening of restrictions on the sale and possession of firearms by collectors and dealers. It also amended the National Firearms Act’s definition of a “silencer” and included parts used to assemble or fabricate one. This federal law also introduced stricter regulations on the sale of automatic weapons and imposed penalties for possessing certain firearms by convicted felons.
Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act
Named after former White House press secretary James Brady, who was permanently disabled following the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was enacted in 1993 and amended some aspects of the Gun Control Act of 1968.
The primary focus of the Brady Act was to establish a system of background checks for individuals seeking to purchase handguns from licensed firearm dealers. Under this law, prospective buyers were required to undergo a background check conducted by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) before acquiring a handgun. The background check was designed to identify individuals with certain disqualifying factors, such as prior felony convictions, restraining orders, or mental health issues that would prohibit them from legally obtaining a handgun.
In addition to the background checks, it also introduced a five-day waiting period before the transfer of guns. This waiting period allowed law enforcement agencies the necessary time to complete the background check and ensure the prospective buyer meets all legal eligibility criteria. In some cases, states implemented their own background check systems in conjunction with NICS.
The Lautenberg Amendment was passed in 1996 as an amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968. Named after its sponsor, Senator Frank Lautenberg, this amendment prohibits a person convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses or subject to certain restraining orders from possessing firearms or ammunition. This amendment is a significant piece of gun control legislation aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence by preventing their abusers from accessing firearms.
Louisiana Constitution Article I, Section 11
Louisiana Constitution Article I, Section 11 is a provision within the state’s constitution that guarantees the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. This section emphasizes the fundamental nature of this right, stating that the right to possess a firearm for self-defense and the defense of one’s family and property is inviolable.
It also stresses the importance of the right to bear arms in a free society and acknowledges that reasonable regulations may be imposed for public safety. Louisiana Constitution Article I, Section 11 reflects the state’s commitment to protecting the individual’s right to own and use firearms while recognizing the need for responsible regulation in the interest of public welfare.
Louisiana Revised Statutes § 14:95.1
Louisiana Revised Statutes § 14:95.1 is a specific legal provision within the state’s statutes that addresses the unlawful possession of firearms by convicted felons. This Louisiana law makes it illegal for a person convicted of certain felonies to possess firearms, ammunition, or accessories. The law aims to enhance public safety by restricting the access of individuals with a history of felony convictions to firearms. Violation can result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment, fines, and the confiscation of weapons.
According to this Louisiana law, it is illegal for an individual to possess a firearm or carry a concealed weapon if they have been convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity for the following crimes:
- Simple burglary
- Any crime of violence defined under Louisiana Revised Statute 14:2(B)
- Unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling
- Burglary of an inhabited dwelling
- Burglary of a pharmacy
- Manufacturing or possession of a bomb
- Manufacturing or possession of a delayed action incendiary device
- Felony illegal use of weapons or dangerous instruments
- Possessing a firearm while in possession of, selling, or distributing a controlled dangerous substance
- Any crime defined as a sex offense according to Louisiana Revised Statute 14:541
- Any violation of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law
- Any attempt to commit one of the crimes above
If you’ve been convicted of a felony, you cannot possess a firearm for ten years following the completed sentence, which is the date probation or parole was completed.
What Happens if a Felon is Caught in Possession of a Firearm in Louisiana?
A convicted felon found in possession of a firearm or gun can face extremely harsh penalties. If found guilty, they can be sentenced to up to 20 years of hard labor without probation, parole, or a suspended sentence. Fines for this felony conviction can range from $1,000 to $5,000.
A convicted felon found guilty of gun possession must spend at least five years in prison. The sentencing the individual receives will be determined by the circumstances surrounding the charges. The judge will also take into account the amount of time the person has been on probation or parole for the prior felony offense and how many felonies the person has been previously convicted of.
Restoration of Firearm Rights After a Felony Conviction
Anyone who has been convicted of a felony in Louisiana will have a difficult time getting their gun rights restored. However, there are options that a convicted felon can attempt to regain the ability to possess a firearm legally. It’s important to note that none of the options listed below are guaranteed.
Civil Rights Restoration
In 2016, Louisiana passed amendments to the state’s firearm laws, which restored gun rights to convicted felons. According to these amendments, the convicted felon must meet the following requirements in order to have their gun rights reinstated.
- The crime was a non-violent and non-sexual offense
- The sentence was deferred
- Over ten years have passed since their sentence was completed
ATF Application to Restore Gun Rights
Another option for felons is to petition to reinstate their Second Amendment rights with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). However, several obstacles often result in these petitions being denied.
In addition to proving that the felon is not a threat to the public, the ATF has other hurdles to work through to approve the petition, including:
- Budget Issues: Due to limited funding, many petitions are returned to the sender without the ATF processing them.
- No Expediting: According to the Supreme Court, convicted felons cannot request an expedited process for their petition.
A governor’s pardon is the most successful route felons can take when attempting to have their gun rights reinstated. All appeals must be made directly to the Louisiana Board of Parole and Pardons. These pardons are granted on a limited basis and are usually reserved for repeat offenders. If a convicted felon is a first-time offender, there are separate pardons they can apply for.
Federal law states that not all “guns” are considered firearms. Some exceptions include black powder weapons or muzzleloaders. Under federal law, they are considered “antique firearms.”
To be considered an antique firearm, the weapon must meet the following requirements:
- Manufactured during or before 1898
- Must use black powder or a black powder substitute instead of a magazine or cartridge
- Cannot be converted to a weapon that uses traditional rifle ammunition or cartridges
It’s important to note that certain parishes within Louisiana consider antique firearms as actual firearms, so depending on the laws where you live, this may be irrelevant.
Charged With a Felony? Call Bossier City Criminal Defense Attorney Michael J. Vergis Today
As you can see, felony convictions have lasting effects long after the sentence has been served. That’s why when you’re facing a conviction for a felony, it’s critical to work with an experienced Bossier City gun crime attorney like Michael J. Vergis. To schedule a free consultation, contact the Law Offices of Michael J. Vergis at (318) 698-3724 today.