Can Gun Rights Be Restored to Felons in Florida?

Can Gun Rights Be Restored to Felons in Florida?
can gun rights be restored to felons in florida

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms to all citizens of the United States. However, federal and state laws prevent certain classes of people, including convicted felons and persons with misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence, from purchasing or possessing firearms. 

Can felons ever have guns again? The clemency process provides a pathway to get gun rights restored to felons in Florida.

How To Get Gun Rights Restored to Felons in Florida

The Florida clemency process allows convicted felons to regain their gun rights when they meet the eligibility criteria. Clemency allows some individuals to forego all or a portion of the punishment for their crimes. 

There are several kinds of clemency available to Florida residents:

  • Commutations of sentence
  • Remission of fines and forfeitures
  • Pardons
  • Restoration of civil rights
  • Specific authority to own, possess, or use firearms

When Can Felons Have Guns in Florida?

A full pardon restores all civil rights, including your right to purchase and possess firearms. 

However, the earliest you can apply for a full pardon is ten years after you complete the terms of your sentence. Eligible persons may apply for the specific authority to own, possess, or use firearms eight years after completing all terms of their sentences. 

Who Is Eligible To Have Gun Rights Restored?

Can nonviolent felons own guns? Violent and non-violent state criminals who completed the duration of their sentences at least eight years prior can apply if they meet the requirements to get gun rights restored to felons in Florida:

  • Completed all sentences and conditions of supervision, including probation, parole, community control, control release and conditional release
  • Have no unpaid fines or debts from criminal convictions or traffic violations that exceed $1,000
  • Do not owe any victim restitution, including any court-ordered restitution, obligations or civil judgments
  • Have no pending criminal charges or outstanding detainers

People who have a federal, military, or out-of-state felony conviction are not eligible to apply for restoration of their gun rights through the Florida clemency process.

What Is the Process for Restoring Gun Rights?

To restore your gun rights, you must apply for a full pardon or specific authority to own, possess, or use firearms with the Florida Office of Executive Clemency. 

You must submit certified copies of the charging documents, judgment, and sentence or probation orders for each of the felony or misdemeanor convictions you seek clemency for to the Clerk of Court in the county where you received your conviction. 

Optionally, you may also include letters of support, character references, a statement, and any other relevant documentation to your application.  

If, after the initial screening, you meet the eligibility requirements to get gun rights restored to felons in Florida, the Florida Commission on Offender Review may assign an investigator to your case. If the Commission grants your clemency request, you will receive a certificate that restores your gun rights. If the Commission denies your request, you can reapply in two years.

Owning BB Guns and Airsoft Guns as a Felon

Florida law defines a firearm as any weapon that uses an explosion to expel a projectile. It may be legal for felons to possess certain types of guns that Florida law does not classify as firearms.

BB Guns 

BB guns use air pressure to fire small metallic projectiles. Because there is no explosive mechanism involved, BB guns are not considered firearms according to Florida law. A felony conviction does not affect your right to own or use a BB gun.

Airsoft Guns

Airsoft guns are similar to BB guns, except the ammunition is plastic rather than metal. Because airsoft guns also use pressurized air instead of explosions to propel the projectiles out of the gun, they are not considered firearms according to Florida law. 

Can Felons Hunt With Airsoft or BB Guns?

Convicted felons with a valid hunting license may hunt with crossbows, bows, and air guns during hunting seasons that allow the legal use of these devices. They may also hunt with guns that qualify as antique firearms according to Florida statute 790.001(1).

However, convicted felons should be cautious about hunting with other hunters who are using firearms. Convicted Florida felons who have not completed the process to get gun rights restored are not legally allowed to have constructive possession of firearms.

If you know about a firearm and are in a position to exert control over the firearm, the law may consider you to have “constructive possession.” For example, if you are riding in a vehicle with other hunters who have firearms, this could be constructive possession.

How To Restore Federal Gun Rights

The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 makes it illegal for anyone with a conviction or indictment for a federal crime punishable by more than one year in prison, with exceptions for some white-collar crimes, to purchase or possess firearms. Federal law also restricts the gun rights of some people with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions.

Can a Federal Felon Get His Gun Rights Back?

Federal law allows people who have lost their gun rights due to federal crimes to apply for relief through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. However, in 1992, Congress barred the ATF from spending money to review and investigate these applications.

Because the only way you can go to federal court to attempt to restore your gun rights is to receive a denial from the ATF, and the ATF is not reviewing applications, the only way to restore your gun rights is in state court. As Florida excludes federal felons from eligibility, there is no pathway in the state for federal felons to restore their gun rights.

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