A hunter takes aim with his rifle on an open plain.

Losing Your Firearm Rights & The Risk of “Unlawful Possession”

Unlawful possession of a firearm in Washington State is a very serious offense. In fact, it’s a felony. It can land you in prison for years and subject you to thousands of dollars in fines that never expire and can never be dismissed through bankruptcy.

Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon is not a situation you want to find yourself in, as a convicted felon in possession of a firearm is subject to immediate arrest and prosecution. Many people get in a lot of trouble because they have an old felony conviction on their record and don’t realize that they aren’t eligible to possess a gun.

But take heart: If you are a gun aficionado, hunting enthusiast, or are simply concerned about protecting your home, Findley & Rogers may be able to help you restore your firearm rights.

The 5 Most Common Situations that Lead to Unlawful Possession of a Firearm

Here are the five top reasons people lose their firearm rights in Washington State, leading to situations of unlawful possession:

  • You were convicted of a felony. The possession of a firearm by a convicted felon is illegal, so a felon in possession of a firearm for any reason must immediately surrender any guns they own upon conviction. This is true whether a judge or jury found you guilty, or you entered a guilty plea and did not fight the charges. It also applies to felony convictions as a juvenile.
    • Note: Since unlawful possession of a firearm is a felony itself, if your loss of gun rights was originally only temporary, then conviction of unlawful possession will make your loss of rights much longer-lasting.
  • You were convicted of certain misdemeanor crimes and the victim was a domestic partner or family member. These crimes include harassment, stalking, reckless endangerment, assault, and criminal trespassing.
  • You are the target of a court-mandated protection order, commonly known as a restraining order, particularly against a domestic partner or family member.
  • You were involuntarily committed to a mental health institution for treatment.
  • You are a drug addict or use illegal drugs.

In all cases, the penalties are the same, though the judge has some control over the severity of the sentence.

  • Note: If you have more than one gun and are found guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm, each gun counts as a separate felony.

Conviction in Another State

If you were convicted of any offense in another state that would cause you to lose your firearm rights if you were convicted here in Washington, then you still lose your Washington State gun rights.

Federal Law

Federal law currently offers no way for an individual who was convicted of domestic violence to get their firearm rights restored federally. It doesn’t have to be a federal conviction that happened in a federal court, either: It applies to state convictions too. Fortunately, following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v Descamps Washington State misdemeanor DV convictions generally do not result in a loss of rights at the Federal level with some rare exceptions. If you are convicted of a DV misdemeanor in another state however, then even if you are able to restore your rights in that State and Washington State, you may still be subject to being federally charged with unlawful possession of a firearm.

Additionally, the federal ban on restoring your rights means that you will likely not be able to pass a background check if you attempt to purchase a firearm in the future.

The good news is that:

  • The federal definition of domestic violence is much narrower, meaning that a state domestic violence conviction might not trigger the federal ban.
    • Note: Be aware that, depending on your circumstances, you may still be federally charged with unlawful possession of a firearm in Washington State, even if you have not specifically lost your Washington firearm rights.
  • If you were convicted in a state court (WA or otherwise), it may be possible to vacate that conviction and pursue the restoration of your rights at the federal level.

What Counts as “Possession”? It Can Cost You If You Don’t Know the Answer

Many people don’t realize that they can be charged with unlawful possession of a firearm simply by being near a gun. If you ride in a vehicle where a gun is present, or if you live with someone who has a gun and you have access to it, then you could be charged with unlawful possession.

WA Residents: Restore Your Firearm Rights with Findley & Rogers

Unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon is a serious crime that isn’t worth the risks. Fortunately, if you’ve lost your firearm rights, most of the time you can eventually get them back.

Findley & Rogers believes in helping our clients exercise their constitutional rights. We know that many people aren’t aware of the fact Washington State’s constitution lets you restore your firearm rights in most situations. In fact, the constitution specifically requires that your firearm rights be restored once you meet the qualifying conditions. All you have to do is formally petition the court, since these rights are not restored automatically.

“Unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon” sounds scary, and it is, but it doesn’t have to hold power over your life forever.

What Can We Help You With?

At Findley & Rogers, we can help you in a variety of ways

  • You have an old felony conviction on your record and want to get your rights back.
  • You want to get a concealed pistol license, or need help with a NICS appeal.
  • You think you may unintentionally be in a situation of unlawful possession of a firearm.

An old felony conviction doesn’t have to prevent you from owning a gun forever: Being a felon in possession of a firearm can be legal after all, if you do it the right way. We can help you get there!

Contact us at Findley & Rogers today. We serve all of Washington State! You don’t have to travel to us: You can restore your firearm rights in your own county.