The state of California has strict firearms laws and federal firearms laws are even stricter. Felony and certain misdemeanor convictions can cause you to lose your rights to own or possess a gun in California. In addition, you cannot legally own or possess a gun if you are:
- Addicted to narcotics (drugs)
- Mentally ill
- Under the legal age of eighteen (18)
- Prohibited by court order
- Prohibited as a condition of probation
- Prohibited by federal law
Conviction of a felony will result in a lifetime ban on gun possession. Most misdemeanor charges do not prohibit you from having a gun. However, weapons-related misdemeanor charges can subject you to a lifetime firearms ban as well. If you are convicted twice of brandishing a firearm, or convicted once for assault with a firearm, you will lose your gun rights for life. Additional convictions that carry a lifetime ban include:
- Assault with a firearm
- Assault with a machine gun or assault weapon
- Assault with a firearm against a peace officer
- Shooting at an inhabited dwelling or car
- Brandishing a firearm at a peace officer
The lifetime ban will also be applied to minors who were convicted and tried as adults.
In addition to possible lifetime firearms bans, there are approximately forty (40) misdemeanors that carry a penalty of a ten (10) year firearms ban. Some of these misdemeanors include:
- Making criminal threats
- Brandishing a weapon
- Domestic violence
Restoring gun rights
It can be difficult to restore your gun rights following a conviction, but not impossible in certain situations. Depending on the circumstances of your case it may be possible to restore your firearms rights if your conviction was not for:
- A felony that involved a dangerous weapon
- A domestic violence crime
Following conviction, there are two possible ways that your gun rights could be restored. The first is if your case was a “wobbler” meaning it could be tried as a misdemeanor or a felony, and your “wobbler” felony was reduced to a misdemeanor. The second available option is receiving a pardon from the Governor of California.
“Wobbler” convictions, as mentioned above, are cases that can be tried as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If you were convicted of a “wobbler” felony, you can petition the court to have the felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor. If your felony is reduced to a misdemeanor your right to possess a firearm may be restored.
Petitioning the Governor to restore gun rights
Your second option for having your gun rights restored in California is to seek a pardon from the Governor. If you live outside of California or if you were convicted of certain misdemeanor sex offenses you must apply directly to the Governor for a pardon. Otherwise, obtaining a pardon involves a two-step process, which includes petitioning the Superior Court for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation. If your petition is granted it automatically becomes a petition for a pardon from the Governor of California.
It is important to understand that the Governor has complete discretion and can grant or deny pardon requests. Typically, when it comes to pardons, the applicant must have resided in California for a minimum of seven (7) years and have had no criminal involvement for at least ten (10) years.