FAQ: Restoring Gun Rights in California

The Second Amendment guarantees the right to possess a gun, but that right is not absolute.1

This FAQ looks at the effect of a California criminal conviction on the right to bear arms and outlines the specific legal tactics that our law firm has successfully used for over 30+ years to restore our clients’ gun rights. This is not intended to provide legal advice. If you are seeking to restore your gun rights, please read below and then get our law firm’s California Gun Rights Restoration Plan which is customized to your particular situation.

Can a Felon own a gun? Or, How to Restore Gun Rights after a Felony Conviction.

If you have been convicted of a felony, you are considered a “felon” and automatically lose your gun rights for life. But, that doesn’t have to be the end of the story.

There are several ways to restore a felon’s right to possess a firearm. Determining which strategy is right for you depends on many factors, including whether you were sentenced to prison or granted probation and on the exact code section of your conviction.

If you are a convicted felon and were sentenced to state prison, your gun rights will be restored only by a full pardon by the Governor (and for a handful of offenses, even a full pardon will not restore gun rights.) On the other hand, if you were convicted of a felony but granted probation, it’s often possible to restore gun rights by petitioning pursuant to Cal. Penal Code § 17(b) to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor. Whether this is possible in your case depends on whether your felony is a “wobbler.” (See below.)

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I’m a convicted felon but was granted probation. Can you restore my gun rights by reducing my felony to a misdemeanor?

Maybe. Only a subset of felony offenses are eligible for reduction to misdemeanors. In addition to being granted probation, your felony must be what’s known as a “wobbler.” A wobbler is an offense that can be punished as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Common “wobblers” include grand theft, joyriding, burglary, DUI with injury, personal possession of a controlled substance, receiving stolen property, and others.2

If you have our law firm obtain your official DOJ report and prepare a gun rights restoration plan for you, we will determine exactly what’s needed to get your gun rights back.

Can my gun rights be restored by reducing my felony to a misdemeanor under “Prop 47?”

No! Many people, (even attorney’s) make this mistake.

Proposition 47 was carefully written so that it does not restore firearm rights. A felony reduction under California’s Proposition 47 (now codified at Penal Code, § 1170.18) has no effect on firearm rights. Thus, if restoration of gun rights is your goal, it’s very important that you petition for a felony reduction under Penal Code, § 17(b), not under Penal Code, § 1170.18. We’ve seen many people, including experienced lawyers, make this critical mistake.

End your Questions. Get our law firm’s California Gun Rights Restoration Plan.

My conviction was for Felony Marijuana Sales or Felony Marijuana Growing, can you Restore my Gun Rights under Proposition 64?

In our professional opinion, a felony reduction under Prop 64 should restore gun rights. The plain language of Proposition 64 is that a felony redesignated as a misdemeanor under Prop 64 is a misdemeanor “for all purposes.” Under the Trump administration, however, the federal government has been antagonistic toward states that “legalize” or even liberalize their marijuana laws. One way that the feds seem to be fighting back is by refusing (sometimes) to approve a gun purchase after a Prop 64 felony reduction/redesignation.  If DOJ/NICS rejects a gun purchase after a Prop 64 reduction, this issue will need to be resolved in court. We are experts on marijuana law. Learn more about how we can help you restore your rights after a marijuana conviction.

Are gun rights restored by a California expungement?

No. While an expungement under Cal. Penal Code, § 1203.4 (or § 1203.4a) has many benefits, it does not restore your firearm rights.

Will a Certificate of Rehabilitation restore my gun rights?

Not by itself, but in many cases obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation is an important step toward restoring your firearm right. For example, if you need a governor’s pardon, and you are a resident of California and you meet certain other criteria, we can seek a pardon by way of a certificate of rehabilitation. In most cases, this is a much better strategy than filing a direct application for a pardon, because by obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation, your pardon application goes to the Governor with a judge’s support. Our law firm has a national reputation for successfully restoring gun rights through the certificate of rehabilitation and pardon process. Get our Gun Rights Restoration Review & Plan to see if we can help you.

Is there any official way to find out if I can buy a gun or possess a gun under California law?

Yes. Under California Penal Code § 30105, a person may request a personal firearms eligibility check (PFEC) from the California Department of Justice. To obtain a firearm eligibility check, you must submit a signed and notarized impression of your right thumbprint, a completed application, a copy of your California Driver’s License (or Identification Card), and a fee (~$20.00) to the Department of Justice. DOJ typically takes about 60 days to conduct a PFEC and to mail you a letter indicating whether or not eligible to both possess and purchase firearms.

A PFEC, however, is limited. A PFEC report provides no actual criminal history information, and for this reason (in addition to the length of time it takes) our law firm typically advises our clients to request a copy of his or her official criminal history records along with our Gun Rights Restoration Plan, rather than a conclusory PFEC.

In addition, a PFEC only covers California law. Not federal law.

If you have a criminal record and are not sure whether you can legally buy or possess a gun, our law firm can obtain your official criminal record from the California Department of Justice and give you professional advice on whether or not you can lawfully buy or possess a gun.

If you are prohibited from possessing a gun, we’ll diagnose the problem, determine whether there is a way to restore your right to own a gun and quote you an exact fee for handling your case from beginning to end. Our report is unbiased and professional – not a sales pitch. You can start your California Gun Rights Restoration Plan online right now. 

California Department of Justice & Firearms (DROS) & DES

The California Department of Justice maintains your official criminal history transcript (aka “rapsheet”). The Bureau of Firearms is an agency within Cal. DOJ, and operates the Dealer Record of Sale (DROS) Entry System (DES).  Nearly all firearm transactions in California require the gun dealer to enter your personal information into the DROS system and obtain approval before selling you a firearm. The DROS system is what searches DOJ’s criminal records database for any criminal convictions that prohibit you from possessing or purchasing a firearm. If you are denied or rejected by DROS, or your purchase is “delayed,” our law firm can review your official DOJ Criminal Record and provide you with expert advice on any post-conviction remedy that might restore your gun rights. If you need help, visit our California Gun Rights Restoration Plan online right now. 

I had a Felony Conviction reduced to a Misdemeanor, but DROS rejected my attempt to purchase a firearm!

Our law firm reviews thousands of DOJ reports each year and many contain errors. When a felony conviction is reduced in court, the clerk transmits a copy of that order to the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and DOJ is supposed to amend your record to show that the conviction has been reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. In some cases, however, something goes wrong with that transmission to DOJ, or DOJ simply misreads the court order (often DOJ will not a Penal Code, § 1203.4 “expungement” but miss the fact that the conviction was also reduced to a misdemeanor at the same time. If this error occurs, your firearm purchase will be denied by the DROS system because it still sees you as a felon. Our law firm has successfully corrected many DOJ reports that contain this error. If you received a DROS denial for a felony conviction that you believe was previously reduced to a misdemeanor, we should e able to help you. Step 1 is to obtain a fresh copy of your DOJ criminal history report and have us review it. Do that here.

Is it possible to be eligible to possess a gun, but not eligible to purchase a gun?

Yes. There are a number scenarios in which this can be true. Because a valid California Driver’s License or Identification Card is required to purchase a firearm, someone with a suspended or expired driver’s license is not prohibited from possessing firearms but is unable to purchase a firearm without a valid driver’s license or identification card. Some restraining orders also allow a person to continue to possess firearms that they already own but prohibit the person from purchasing additional firearms. In addition, because we are governed by state law and federal law, it is possible for conflicts to occur between these two bodies of law. Simply put, gun law is complex. Don’t play amateur lawyer or depend on your nephew who does corporate law. For just $195 we can provide you with dependable expert legal counsel.

I currently own a gun despite having a felony conviction. What’s the penalty if I am caught?

The offense of being a felon in possession of a gun is itself a felony. (California Penal Code § 29800.) The punishment is 16 months to three years in county jail and a maximum fine of $10, 000. To avoid this, you should relinquish your gun(s) ASAP by granting someone outside of your home power of attorney and having that person take possession of the firearm(s). Here’s a Power of Attorney form (PDF) to make it easy,

I lost my gun rights after a misdemeanor conviction. How is that possible and can you get my gun rights restored?

For some California misdemeanor convictions, you lose your right to possess a gun for 10 years.3 For these offenses, you simply need to wait out the ten years and your gun rights will be automatically restored at the end of the period. While it has no effect on gun rights, we usually recommend that our clients expunge their misdemeanor convictions as soon as they have completed probation, in order to obtain the employment benefits of a clean record. Once the expunged, it’s just a matter of waiting until the 10 years have passed.

I have an old misdemeanor domestic violence conviction and was recently rejected when I tried to buy a handgun. It’s been over ten years since I was convicted.

Bad news. In 1996, Congress passed the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, often called “The Lautenberg Amendment” (“Gun Ban for Individuals Convicted of a Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence” (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9)), which created a lifetime ban on possessing a firearm after a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction. Effective January 1, 2019, this same lifetime ban now applies under California law, as well as federal law. This lifetime ban applies to California misdemeanor convictions under Penal Code, § 273.5, and to any other misdemeanor assault or battery convictions in which the victim was in a current or former domestic relationship with the offender.

A subsection of the Lautenberg Amendment creates an exception for convictions that have been expunged or pardoned, “unless the pardon, expungement, or restoration of civil rights expressly provides that the person may not ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms.” (18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33)(B)(ii.) This later exclusion means that a California expungement does not obviate the gun ban because the California expungement law (Penal Code, § 1203.4) expressly provides that it does not restore firearm rights. As a result, if you have ever been convicted of a California domestic violence offense, your gun rights are gone for life under federal law (and effective January 1, 2019, under California state law also).

⇒ End your Questions. Get our law firm’s California Gun Rights Restoration Plan.

Is it true that there are some misdemeanor offenses that trigger a lifetime ban on possessing a gun?

Yes. Some California misdemeanor offenses can also result in a lifetime firearm ban under California law.4

I want to do everything possible to restore my right to possess a firearm. What do you recommend?

Our law firm is nationally recognized for our success and expertise at restoring gun rights after a conviction. After 30+ years of restoring gun rights in California, Mr. Boire will personally review your official California rap sheet and give you his professional advice on what can be done. If it’s possible to restore your firearm rights, he’ll know exactly how to do it. His fee to review your rap sheet and provide his professional advice is currently just $195 and no office visit is required. Start your California Gun Rights Restoration Plan.

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  1. Under California and/or federal law it is unlawful for certain persons to own and/or possess firearms, including:

    • Any person who is convicted of a felony or any offense enumerated in Penal Code sections 29900 or 29905

    Any person who is ordered to not possess firearms as a condition of probation or other court order listed in Penal Code section 29815, subdivisions (a) and (b)

    • Any person who is convicted of a misdemeanor listed in Penal Code section 29805 (refer to List of Prohibiting Misdemeanors)

    • Any person who is adjudged a ward of the juvenile court because he or she committed an offense listed in Welfare and Institutions Code section 707(b), an offense described in Penal Code section 1203.073(b), or any offense enumerated in Penal Code section 29805

    • Any person who is subject to a temporary restraining order or an injunction issued pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure sections 527.6 or 527.8, a protective order as defined in Family Code section 6218, a protective order issued pursuant to Penal Code sections 136.2 or 646.91, or a protective order issued pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 15657.03

    • Any person who is found by a court to be a danger to himself, herself, or others because of a mental illness

    • Any person who is found by a court to be mentally incompetent to stand trial

    • Any person who is found by a court to be not guilty by reason of insanity

    • Any person who is adjudicated to be a mentally disordered sex offender

    • Any person who is placed on a conservatorship because he or she is gravely disabled as a result of a mental disorder, or an impairment by chronic alcoholism

    • Any person who communicates a threat to a licensed psychotherapist against a reasonably identifiable victim, that has been reported by the psychotherapist to law enforcement

    • Any person who is taken into custody as a danger to self or others under Welfare and Institutions Code section 5150, assessed under Welfare and Institutions Code section 5151, and admitted to a mental health facility under Welfare and Institutions Code sections 5151, 5152, or certified under Welfare and Institutions Code sections 5250, 5260, and 5270.15

    • Any person who is addicted to the use of narcotics (state and federal)

    • Any person who is under indictment or information in any court for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year (federal)

    • Any person who has been discharged from the military under dishonorable conditions (federal)

    • Any person who is an illegal alien (federal)

    • Any person who has renounced his or her US Citizenship (federal)

    • Any person who is a fugitive from justice (federal)

  2. Other common California wobbler offenses include:

      • Cal. Penal Code § 245(a)(1) – assault with a deadly weapon (not a gun)
      • Cal. Penal Code § 245(a)(2) – assault with a deadly weapon (a gun)
      • Grand theft —
          • Cal. Penal Code §487(a)
          • Cal. Penal Code §487(b)(1)(A)
          • Cal. Penal Code §487(b)(3)
          • Cal. Penal Code §487(c)
          • Cal. Penal Code §487e
          • Cal. Penal Code §487g
        • Cal. Penal Code §487h(a)
      • Cal. Penal Code § 273a(a) – child abuse
      • Cal. Penal Code § 273.5(a) – domestic violence
      • Cal. Penal Code § 273.5(e)(1) – domestic violence
      • Cal. Penal Code § 273.5(e)(2) – domestic violence
      • Cal. Penal Code § 666 – petty theft with a prior
      • Cal. Penal Code §594(a) –vandalism
      • Cal. Penal Code § 459 – second degree burglary
      • Cal. Penal Code § 632(a) –eavesdropping on confidential information
      • Cal. Penal Code § 646.9(a) – stalking
      • Cal. Penal Code § 530.5(a) – identity theft
      • Cal. Penal Code § 422 – criminal threats of violence
      • Cal. Penal Code § 186.22(a) – participation in a criminal street gang
      • Cal. Penal Code § 186.22(d) – commission of a wobbler in association with a gang
      • Cal. Penal Code § 496(a) – receiving stolen property
      • Cal. Penal Code § 476a – writing checks without sufficient funds
      • Cal. Penal Code § 192(c)(1) – vehicular manslaughter
      • Cal. Penal Code § 499c(c) – theft of trade secrets
      • Cal. Penal Code § 243(d) – battery resulting in serious bodily injury
      • Cal. Penal Code § 244.5(b) – assault with a stun gun or less lethal weapon
      • Cal. Penal Code § 597(a) – cruelty to animals
      • Cal. Penal Code § 281 – bigamy
      • Cal. Penal Code § 284 – marrying the husband or wife of another
      • Cal. Penal Code § 311.1(a) – sale or distribution of child pornography
          • Statutory rape –
        • Cal. Penal Code § 261.5 (c)
        • Cal. Penal Code § 261.5 (d)
      • Cal. Veh. Code § 10851(a) – joyriding
      • Cal. Health & Saf. Code § 11377 (a) – possession of a controlled substance
    • Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 7027.3 – fraudulent use of a contractor’s license number
    • Firearm prohibitions for misdemeanor violations of the offenses listed below are generally for ten years from the date of conviction, but the duration of each prohibition may vary. (All statutory references are to the California Penal Code unless otherwise indicated.)

      • Threatening public officers, employees, and school officials (Pen. Code, § 71.)

      • Threatening certain public officers, appointees, judges, staff or their families with the intent and apparent ability to carry out the threat (Pen. Code, § 76.)

      • Intimidating witnesses or victims (Pen. Code, § 136.1.)

      • Possessing a deadly weapon with the intent to intimidate a witness (Pen. Code, § 136.5.)

      • Threatening witnesses, victims, or informants (Pen. Code, § 140.)

      • Attempting to remove or take a firearm from the person or immediate presence of a public or peace officer (Pen. Code, § 148(d).)

      • Unauthorized possession of a weapon in a courtroom. Courthouse, or court building, or at a public meeting (Pen. Code, § 171(b).)

      • Bringing into or possessing a loaded firearm within the state capitol, legislative offices, etc. (Pen. Code, § 171(c).)

      • Taking into or possessing loaded firearms within the Governor’s Mansion or residence of other constitutional officers (Pen. Code, 171(d).)

      • Supplying, selling or giving possession of a firearm to a person for participation in criminal street gangs (Pen. Code, § 186.28.)

      • Assault (Pen. Code, §§ 240, 241.)

      • Battery (Pen. Code, §§ 242, 243.)

      • Sexual Battery (Pen. Code, § 243.4)

      • Assault with a stun gun or taser weapon (Pen. Code, § 244.5.)

      • Assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, or with force likely to produce great bodily injury (Pen. Code, § 245.)

      • Assault with a deadly weapon or instrument; by any means likely to produce great bodily injury or with a stun gun or taser on a school employee engaged in performance of duties (Pen. Code, § 245.5 .)

      • Discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner (Pen. Code, § 246.3.)

      • Shooting at an unoccupied aircraft, motor vehicle, or uninhabited building or dwelling house (Pen. Code, § 247.)

      • Inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or significant other (Pen. Code, § 273.5.) LIFETIME BAN UNDER FEDERAL LAW.

      • Willfully violating a domestic protective order (Pen. Code, § 273.6.)

      • Drawing, exhibiting or using deadly weapon other than a firearm (Pen. Code, § 417, subd. (a)(1) & (a)(2).)

      • Inflicting serious bodily injury as a result of brandishing (Pen. Code, § 417.6.)

      • Making threats to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person (Pen. Code, § 422.)

      • Bringing into or possessing firearms upon or within public schools and grounds (Pen. Code, § 626.9.)

      • Stalking (Pen. Code, § 646.9.)

      • Armed criminal action (Pen. Code, § 25800.)

      • Possessing a deadly weapon with intent to commit an assault (Pen. Code, § 17500.)

      • Driver of any vehicle who knowingly permits another person to discharge a firearm from the vehicle or any person who willfully and maliciously discharges a firearm from a motor vehicle (Pen. Code, § 26100, subd. (b) or (d).)

      • Criminal possession of a firearm (Pen. Code, § 25300.)

      • Firearms dealer who sells, transfers or gives possession of any firearm to a minor or a handgun to a person under 21 (Pen. Code, § 27510.)

      • Various violations involving sales and transfers of firearms (Pen. Code, § 27590, subd. (c).)

      • Person or corporation who sells any concealable firearm to any minor (former Pen. Code, § 12100, subd. (a).)

      • Unauthorized possession/transportation of a machine gun (Pen. Code, § 32625)

      • Possession of ammunition designed to penetrate metal or armor (Pen. Code, § 30315.)

      • Carrying a concealed or loaded firearm or other deadly weapon or wearing a peace officer uniform while picketing (Pen. Code, §§ 830.95, subd. (a), 17510, subd. (a.)

      • Bringing firearm related contraband into juvenile hall (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 871.5.)

      • Bringing firearm related contraband into a youth authority institution (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 1001.5.)

      • Purchase, possession, or receipt of a firearm or deadly weapon by a person receiving in-patient treatment for a mental disorder, or by a person who has communicated to a licensed psychotherapist a serious threat of physical violence against an identifiable victim (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 8100.)

      • Providing a firearm or deadly weapon to a person described in Welfare and Institutions Code sections 8100 or 8103 (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 8101.)

      • Purchase, possession, or receipt of a firearm or deadly weapon by a person who has been adjudicated to be a mentally disordered sex offender or found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial, or not guilty by reason of insanity, and individuals placed under conservatorship (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 8103.)

    •  The following misdemeanor convictions result in a lifetime prohibition:

      • Domestic Violence (Pen. Code § 273.5) (Effective Jan 1, 2019.)

      • Assault with a firearm (Pen. Code, §§ 29800, subd. (a)(1), 23515, subd. (a).)

      • Shooting at an inhabited or occupied dwelling house, building, vehicle, aircraft, housecar or camper (Pen. Code, §§ 246, 29800, subd. (a)(1), 17510, 23515, subd. (b).)

      • Brandishing a firearm in presence of a peace officer (Pen. Code §§ 417, subd. (c), 23515, subd. (d), 29800, subd. (a)(1).)

      • Two or more convictions of Penal Code section 417, subdivision (a)(2) (Pen. Code § 29800, subd. (a)(2).)