Being a practicing attorney who handles firearms questions and legal issues, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C.’s attorneys, including Bryan L. Ciyou, encounter a number of routine questions and misconceptions as it relates to firearms. One area of constant inquiry and some misunderstanding, is whether a felon may purchase or possess a firearm of any type at any time and circumstance.
As a general proposition, there is a bright line rule (black and white) under federal law that prohibits any person convicted of a felony from purchasing or possessing any type of firearm. While there is a provision of federal law that would allow certain felons to have their rights to purchase and possess firearms restored, Congress has not funded his provision of the law. As such, ATF has no ability to use this legal mechanism.
Over the few decades state and federal penal laws have proliferated, and a whole class of crimes heretofore that were not felonies now fall into this class. There are pervasive arguments advanced for allowing non-violent felons to have their firearms rights restored. However, outside a pardon, these positions have yet to gain legal traction and be implemented.
In addition, under the Brady law, a person convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence is also so prohibited from purchasing, possessing and/or carrying firearms. State and federal law does not differentiated between handguns and long guns. This distinction generally applies to a person who must have a license to carry a handgun.
There are a number of other categories of people who are prohibited possessors, such as persons dishonorably discharged or adjudicated mentally defective.
Nevertheless, a common question received by firearms’ attorneys and AFT is what type of weapons (firearms) a convicted felon (post incarceration, parole and probation) may possess, if any. While state law may vary, and the federal exception is very technical, it may be possible for a felon to purchase, possess, and carry certain muzzle loading firearms.
Generally, these are defined in relevant part by those manufactured before or during 1898 and are loaded from the muzzle (the open end of the barrel). The ammunition in these firearms is not triggered by a firing pin striking and igniting a primer. Instead, they are mostly (by current terms) ignited by a percussion cap or flint stone creating a spark.
The ammunition itself is also a key point by which antique firearms are differentiated from current firearms. The casing for antique firearms is effectively the breach end of the barrel into which (from the muzzle) power, a patch (for creating a seal) and shot or slug is placed. This is not a fixed or self-contained cartridge.
If the firearm is a antique firearm as defined under federal law, and allowed by state law, a convicted felon may possess such. However, a number of current black powder firearms are made from components of other modern firearms. These are excluded from the definition of an antique firearm. Thus, very careful research is required and this likely takes an attorney familiar with the hyper-technical distinctions found in state and federal law.
A unintended violation of state or federal firearms law is likely to carry a lengthy prison sentence so any attempt to utilize the narrow exception must be carefully researched and a cost-benefit analysis employed. If this blog post about about whether or not a convicted felon can purchase or possess a firearm has help you understand this common question and area of concern and misunderstanding amongst gun owners as a whole, this blog post has met its educational goal.
This blog post is written by attorney Bryan L. Ciyou, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., Indianapolis, Indiana, and is designed for general educational purposes only. You should not rely on this blog post and should consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction. Laws vary widely from place to place. This blog post is not a solicitation for legal services.