A felony conviction could cause you to lose your right to possess, use, transport, or handle a firearm. It does not matter if your felony conviction had anything to do with guns or violence because any type of felony conviction may disqualify you from owning, using, or otherwise dealing with most firearms.
Virginia Code § 18.2-308.2 sets out the laws regarding firearm possession, use, and handling for convicted felons in Virginia.
Consequences of Violating Gun Laws After Felony Conviction
Despite having lax gun laws, Virginia imposes stiff punishments on individuals who lose their right to possess, use, or handle firearms.
Violating Virginia Code § 18.2-308.2 is a class 6 felony. If a person’s last felony conviction was within the last 10 years, they will receive a mandatory minimum prison sentence of two years for violating gun laws for convicted felons. If someone violates this section and was previously convicted of a violent felony (set out in Code § 17.1-805), then the mandatory prison sentence increases to five years in prison.
Your Gun Rights Might Not Be Gone Forever
Generally, a person convicted of a felony may not knowingly and intentionally possess or transport any firearm, ammunition for a firearm, stun weapon, or explosive material, in Virginia. However, there are some exceptions to this general rule. Even after a felony conviction, Virginia Code § 18.2-308.2 allows a person to possess a firearm, ammunition, or explosive material:
- While carrying out duties as a member of the United States Armed Forces or the National Guard of Virginia, or any other state
- To perform duties as a law-enforcement officer
- After being pardoned
- After having the right to possess firearms or ammunition restored under the law of another state
- After having being adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile and completing at least two years in the United States Armed Forces and receiving an honorable discharge, as long as it is not otherwise prohibited by law
- After the person’s right to possess, carry, or transport explosive material was restored by federal law
Additionally, a person convicted of a felony may:
- Have a stun weapon (as defined by Virginia Code § 18.2-308.1) in their residence
- Possess, transport, or carry antique firearms
- Possess, transport, or carry black powder not exceeding five pounds if it is intended to be used solely for sporting, recreational, or cultural purposes in antique firearms
How to Get Your Gun Rights Back After a Virginia Felony Conviction
You may be able to get your gun rights back after losing them due to a Virginia or other state-level conviction. However, the information below does not apply to people who have been convicted of federal felonies.
To get unrestricted firearm privileges reinstated after being convicted of a felony, you must go through several steps:
- First, you need to have your civil rights restored by the governor of the state in which you were convicted. Each state has different procedures for civil rights restorations.
- Next, after the governor has restored your rights, you may petition the Circuit Court for a hearing. If you live in Virginia, this should happen in the Circuit Court for the area where you reside. If you live out of state, then this should happen in the Circuit Court that last held proceedings concerning your most recent felony conviction.
- After that, the Circuit Court will hold a hearing, and you must explain to the court why there is “good cause” to reinstate your ability to possess, use, or otherwise handle firearms. The court has broad discretion in determining whether good cause was shown, but it is not required to consider any specific criteria in reaching this decision.
- Finally, the Circuit Court will reach a decision. If the court agrees to grant you firearm-related privileges, it can impose various conditions related to gun possession, use, or handling.
Protect Your Gun Rights After a Felony Conviction