–by Robert Weinzierl, Gun Rights Restoration Lawyer
The United States and Washington State Constitutions both grant the right to bear arms. That being said, the right to own and possess firearms is far from absolute and, in the name of safety and welfare, the state can restrict those rights. Standard restrictions include background checks on firearm purchases and transfers, limitations on possession in certain areas, and requiring permits to carry concealed pistols. More individualized restrictions can be as severe as the temporary or even permanent termination of your right to own or possess firearms. Anyone caught with a firearm after their rights have been stripped can be charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, which is a felony in Washington.
The most common reason for having firearm rights taken is because of a criminal conviction. Only the more serious criminal convictions (such as a Class A felony) would permanently strip a person of his or her firearm rights. For any other conviction, a person may apply to have those rights restored, but only upon meeting the requirements for restoration.
The requirements for restoration differ depending on the underlying conviction and criminal history of the individual. Generally speaking, if a person is convicted of a felony, that individual must go five years without being convicted of any felony, gross misdemeanor, or misdemeanor crime. In the case of a nonfelony offense, the timeframe is three years. All other conditions of the sentence must be completed as well.
Once an individual feels that he or she meets the requirements to have his or her firearm rights restored, then that person may file a petition to have those rights restored. They may file the petition in either superior court in the county in which the petitioner resides, or the court of record that ordered the petitioner’s prohibition on possession of a firearm, which may impact the likelihood of the granting of the petition. Once the petition is filed there is no guarantee that the court will restore that individual’s rights. Because of the way the law is written, meeting the firearm restoration requirements only grants the right to petition. There is no language stating that the court must restore those rights.
If your firearm rights have been taken away and you feel that you meet the requirements to have those rights restored, it may be wise to consult an attorney for representation. Anyone who meets the necessary requirements to have their firearm rights restored but don’t do so can still be charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. Not only would you be facing prison time, but you might have to wait another 10 years before meeting the firearm restoration requirements!