Under both state and federal law, convicted felons are prohibited from gun ownership or possession. While this may make sense to keep firearms out of the hands of those with a record for, say, armed robbery or shooting with intent to kill, it does not always seem reasonable that people convicted of non-violent felonies are banned from gun possession.
Gun Rights in the State of Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, we have some fairly permissive gun rights. The state has both open carry and concealed carry provisions. It supports the Castle Doctrine through allowing lethal force in protecting one's home and family from an intruder. The state even upholds a "Stand Your Ground" law, which states that a person has "no duty to retreat" when confronted by a person attempting to commit a crime against him or her:
A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. 21 O.S. 1289.25 (D)
Unfortunately, those who have been convicted of a non-violent felony are deprived of the ability to use firearms for self-defense or for the protection of their families. Not only violent felons, but also someone convicted of a covert, non-threatening, and non-violent white collar crime, like embezzlement or fraud, is unable to own a gun for self-protection or for recreation:
Except as provided in subsection B of this section, it shall be unlawful for any person convicted of any felony in any court of this state or of another state or of the United States to have in his or her possession or under his or her immediate control, or in any vehicle which the person is operating, or in which the person is riding as a passenger, or at the residence where the convicted person resides, any pistol, imitation or homemade pistol, altered air or toy pistol, machine gun, sawed-off shotgun or rifle, or any other dangerous or deadly firearm. 21 O.S. 1283 (A)
Expungement Does NOT Restore Firearm Rights
That exception in subsection B is a pretty big deal for people wishing to restore their firearm rights after a non-violent felony conviction.
Often, people look toward record expungement as a way to clear their criminal record and move forward with many opportunities that were denied to them as a result of that record. However, it is a misconception that criminal record expungement will restore firearm rights in Oklahoma.
A Pardon is the Answer
Instead, the only way to restore firearm rights, according to 21 O.S. 1283 (B) is through a pardon granted by the Governor of Oklahoma:
Any person who has previously been convicted of a nonviolent felony in any court of this state or of another state or of the United States, and who has received a full and complete pardon from the proper authority and has not been convicted of any other felony offense which has not been pardoned, shall have restored the right to possess any firearm or other weapon prohibited by subsection A of this section, the right to apply for and carry a handgun, concealed or unconcealed, pursuant to the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act and the right to perform the duties of a peace officer, gunsmith, or for firearms repair.
A pardon is different from an expungement. Whereas an expungement clears a criminal record, a pardon leaves the record intact but provides official recognition from the governor that the offense is forgiven and in the past, and it acknowledges that the person has changed for the better since his or her conviction. A pardon not only allows the restoration of gun rights, but it also can facilitate the process of obtaining record expungement under 22 O.S. 18. Here is more information on the differences between a pardon and expungement.
To learn more about how to petition for a pardon or expungement, and to find out if you may qualify to regain your firearm rights, contact your attorney.