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Can a felon own a gun in California? The short answer is no. California has instituted some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, and conviction of any felony and certain misdemeanors will render you ineligible to own or possess a gun in California.

Under California Penal Code section 29800, you commit a felony by merely owning a gun or by purchasing, receiving, or possessing one after having a felony conviction.

You cannot even have a gun under your custody or control without breaking California law if you are a felon. 

How Long Before a Convicted Felon Can Own a Gun in California?

Restoring gun rights in California is not easy, and often it is not even possible. Theoretically, if you are convicted of any felony, then you are subject to a lifetime ban.

Conviction of certain misdemeanors also results in a lifetime ban, while conviction of other misdemeanors results in a ban of only ten years. 

Nevertheless, there are two loopholes that will allow you to recover your gun rights under certain very limited circumstances.  

Loophole #1: Converting a “Wobbler” Offense to a Misdemeanor After the Fact

A “wobbler” offense is an offense that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or as a felony, depending on the circumstances. The receipt of stolen property is an example of an offense that is considered a “wobbler” offense in California, depending on the value of the stolen property that you received.

One way to regain your gun rights in California is to convert a “wobbler” offense from a felony to a misdemeanor. Under certain circumstances it is possible to do this after you have already been convicted of a felony, so you will no longer be a convicted felon.

If you do this, the extent of your loss of gun rights will depend on the penalties for that particular misdemeanor. In other words, you might become eligible to own a gun again.

Loophole #2: Seek a Pardon from the Governor of California

A pardon relieves you from any further penalty for a crime. If you are in prison, for example, you can walk free with a pardon. A pardon does not exonerate you from the crime.

It only relieves you of its consequences. Remember, the Governor of California can only pardon you for a state law offense, not for a federal offense. Likewise, only the governor is qualified to pardon you for a state law offense.

The governor enjoys nearly 100 percent discretion in the decision of whether to issue you a pardon. In most cases, you must have lived in California for at least seven years.

You must also have been free of involvement in any criminal activity for at least 10 years. The governor can deny your pardon request for almost any reason, or for no reason at all. 

If you live in California: Petition the Superior Court for a pardon

If you live in California, you must undergo a two-step process:

  • Submit a petition to a California Superior Court for a California certificate of rehabilitation. This is not a pardon, but you can use it to qualify for a pardon.
  • If the Superior Court grants your petition, your California certificate of rehabilitation will become a petition for a pardon from the governor. 

If you live outside of California: Apply directly to the Governor for a pardon

If you live outside of California, you cannot seek a pardon by petitioning a Superior Court for a California certificate of rehabilitation. Instead, you must apply directly to the Governor’s Office.  

When You Cannot Recover Your Gun Rights

No legal loophole can restore your right to own a gun in California if you committed a felony involving:

  • domestic violence, or 
  • the use of a “dangerous weapon” (not necessarily a gun).

Check the laws of other states to see whether you can possess a gun outside of California.

What Happens If the California Police Catch You with a Gun

If you cannot restore your legal right to own a firearm, stay away from guns. If you don’t, the penalties can be severe. California can incarcerate you in prison for up to three years and fine you up to $10,000 for the offense. Other states might apply even more serious penalties.

We Are Not Afraid to Fight for Your Rights

The California criminal justice system is complex, confusing, and overwhelming. Since the justice system is adversarial in nature, you can expect a brutally competitive environment.

Without an experienced criminal lawyer by your side, you will be at a severe disadvantage. Contact the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, by calling 619-900-6902 or by contacting us online to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong

 

Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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