Below is information on restoring your right to possess a firearm in Pennsylvania. To see if you are eligible for one of our criminal record clearing services, take our FREE Eligibility Check.
The Gun Control Act of 1968, a Federal law, prohibits anyone who has been convicted of a felony, a misdemeanor punishable by more than two years in prison, or a domestic-violence misdemeanor from purchasing or possessing a firearm. This ban does not include any convictions that have been expunged, set aside, pardoned, or for which the person has had his civil rights restored. Civil rights means the right to vote, run for office, and serve on a jury. Pennsylvania state law also prohibits anyone who has been convicted of certain crimes from purchasing or possessing a firearm.
Additionally there are other classifications of people who are prohibited under Federal law from possessing a firearm, these include any person who: is a fugitive, is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance, has been adjudicated as a mental defective or been committed to a mental institution, is an illegal alien, has renounced his US citizenship, was dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces, or is subject to an order restraining from an intimate partner that was issued after a hearing.
Generally, an expunged or pardoned conviction in PA is not considered a conviction for the purposes of the Federal or Pennsylvania firearm prohibitions. The Federal law provides that “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 [the federal firearm prohibition], unless such pardon, expungement, or restoration of civil rights expressly provides that the person may not ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms.” Unfortunately, most convictions that cause an individual to lose their firearm rights (felonies and higher level misdemeanors) are not eligible for expungement under current Pennsylvania law.
While Pennsylvania has a procedure for individuals to apply to a court to restore their gun rights, this procedure will not help in the case where the prohibition falls under the Federal firearm law because the PA firearm rights restoration process provided for under Pennsylvania state law does not relieve the Federal firearm prohibition unless all of your civil rights have been restored. In Pennsylvania State Police v. Paulshock, 575 Pa. 378, 836 A.2d 110 (2003), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that unless all the civil rights have been restored to an individual, the firearm restoration would not relieve the Federal ban. In Pennsylvania, your voting rights are restored immediately upon release from incarceration. However, the right to serve on a jury is taken away if you have ever been convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year in prison and can only be restored by obtaining a pardon. Additionally, you lose the right to hold public office if you have been convicted of embezzlement of public money, bribery, perjury, or any other infamous crime (any felony basically). That right also can be restored only through a governor's pardon.
Therefore, if you were convicted of a felony and lost the right to serve on a jury or hold public office and have not been granted a pardon, then the federal law will prohibit you from owning or possessing a firearm even if a Pennsylvania court restores your firearm rights. If your convictions are not eligible for judicial expungement at this time and the federal firearm prohibition applies, the only way for you to fully restore your gun rights is to apply for and receive a pardon from the governor of Pennsylvania.
Please contact RecordGone.com if you are looking to restore your right to possess firearms in Pennsylvania. You can see if you are eligible by going to https://www.recordgone.com/eligibility/
By Jenna Thorne
Ms. Jenna Thorne is a member of the Pennsylvania State Bar (#310524) as well as the New Jersey State Bar (#000582011). Ms. Thorne oversees and works on all our New Jersey and Pennsylvania expungement cases and our Pennsylvania Pardon cases. This includes drafting affidavits, motions in support of our petitions, and responses to Prosecutor and District Attorney oppositions. She also handles our Expedited Record Clearance Update (ERCU) service.