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Frequently Asked Legal Questions

Find answers to common questions in our searchable FAQ.


3336 views   |   18   |   Last updated on Sep 25, 2020    Guns Criminal Law

It is difficult to provide a simple answer to this question because state laws and federal laws conflict with each other. Interpreting and applying these laws to your particular situation requires the assistance of an attorney. Our librarians are not able to provide legal advice nor can we advise you on whether your situation complies with the law.

Federal Law

Federal law prohibits anyone who has been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term longer than a year from possessing a firearm or ammunition. See 18 U.S. Code 922(g):

(g) It shall be unlawful for any person -
    (1) who has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
    […]
to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.

We often get asked what counts as a "conviction" that would prevent a person from owning a firearm under federal law. According to the definition set in 18 U.S. Code 921(20):

The term "crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year" does not include- [...] (B) any State offense classified by the laws of the State as a misdemeanor and punishable by a term of imprisonment of two years or less.

What constitutes a conviction of such a crime shall be determined in accordance with the law of the jurisdiction in which the proceedings were held. Any conviction which has been expunged, or set aside or for which a person has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored shall not be considered a conviction for purposes of this chapter, unless such pardon, expungement, or restoration of civil rights expressly provides that the person may not ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms.

Texas Law

Unlike federal law, Texas law provides some restoration of rights for those with a felony conviction in certain circumstances. Section 46.04 of the Texas Penal Code makes it illegal for someone who was convicted of a felony to possess a firearm before five years have passed since the completion of their sentence, parole, or probation. Once the 5-year period has passed, the person can only possess a firearm at their home:

Sec. 46.04. UNLAWFUL POSSESSION OF FIREARM. (a) A person who has been convicted of a felony commits an offense if he possesses a firearm:
    (1) after conviction and before the fifth anniversary of the person's release from confinement following conviction of the felony or the person's release from supervision under community supervision, parole, or mandatory supervision, whichever date is later; or
    (2) after the period described by Subdivision (1), at any location other than the premises at which the person lives.

What qualifies as a firearm?

Some antique firearms are exempt from both the state and federal legal definitions of a firearm. See our FAQ "Can someone who has been convicted of a felony own a black powder gun or a muzzleloader?" for more information.

Other Considerations

Other factors might also be relevant for a person with a felony conviction to consider. For example, see: Can I own a gun if my spouse, partner, or someone I live with was convicted of a felony?

For more information, see our Felons & Firearms page for resources that help explain these legal issues. An attorney could advise you and provide a legal opinion specific to your situation.

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