Restoring your gun rights after a felony can be simpler than you think

Published: Nov. 22, 2016 at 6:57 PM EST
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Let’s say you want to get something special for the hunting season. So at someplace like Bald Bear Outfitters in Buena Vista, they can help you out with your choice of rifle.

But once you make your decision, there’s the background check. And if you have a felony on your record, that’s where it all comes unglued.

“Most people come in, and they’re not wanting a gun for personal protection or concealed carry or anything of that nature. They just want to be able to go deer hunt for the most part,” according to Lexington attorney Will Hancock. He handles cases for people hoping to recover their gun rights.

“It’s pretty common," Hancock says. "It’s pretty common, particularly in rural areas like this where people hunt, and want firearms for purposes of hunting and that sort of thing. It comes up a fair amount.”

The governor of Virginia has the authority to restore civil rights to any convicted felon that he chooses to do so. It’s right there in the state constitution, Article V, Section 12. And you can apply online these days.

“That restores everything," explains Ed Stein, Alleghany Commonwealth’s Attorney, "Except your gun rights.”

For those, you need to petition the Circuit Court.

“It really varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction," according to Stein. "It requires that the Commonwealth’s Attorney be given notice, so we can object if we want to.”

“And my experience has been that in cases that don’t involve violence or the use of force, courts are much more likely to reinstate gun rights,” says Hancock.

But do you need a lawyer?

“I’ve had people do it themselves," Stein says. "The problem is there is no form to fill out.”

Hancock thinks: “Having a lawyer is always better than not having a lawyer in these things. There are procedural loops, or hoops that have to be jumped through.”

And so, hunting can once again be enjoyed.