Articles Posted in Restoration of gun rights

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In Washington, restoring firearm rights which were lost due to an involuntary commitment for mental-health care can be a real challenge. It turns out to be much more difficult than restoring firearm rights lost due to a criminal conviction. Under either scenario, the person seeking restoration of rights must apply to a Superior Court. This similarities end there.

However, the larger challenge is that even if a Washington Superior Court order restores firearm rights following a mental-health commitment, federal authorities will not recognize the person’s right to possess firearms, and are likely to deny any request to purchase a firearm. Worse news: No procedure is available under federal law to restore firearm rights.

When a person seeks restoration of firearm rights following an involuntary commitment, a judge must restore firearm rights if the person proves the following:

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Suppose the government somehow prohibited you from speaking or writing on a vital topic. The economy, for example, or foreign policy, or even the designated-hitter rule. Or suppose the government prohibited you and others from gathering in a private home for religious study.

And suppose you objected to the government, and explained that the First Amendment protected your right to speak, to write, to assemble as a group, and to freely exercise your religious belief.

And suppose the government responded to your objection by telling you that it would give your complaint thorough and thoughtful consideration and give you a response in about 20 months.

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I often receive calls from people who are surprised to learn that their Washington juvenile criminal records have not been automatically sealed or wiped out.   This unwelcome news usually pops up when a person is trying to buy a gun and receives a negative response on the mandatory criminal-history  check  by NICS, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System operated by the FBI.   Fortunately, most people in this position will qualify to have the record sealed by the juvenile court.

There is a persistent myth that once you become an adult,  your juvenile criminal history somehow dissolves  or evaporates, and ceases to have any consequence.  In Washington, at least, it just isn’t so.  Juvenile-court records are public records, accessible to anyone who asks, just like any other court record.  But for those who qualify, a Washington juvenile record may be sealed by presenting a motion to the court.

A court order to seal a juvenile offender record yields tremendous benefits. Continue reading

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Raise your hand if this sounds like someone you know:  As a not-yet-fully-baked adult, he made what today’s parents refer to as “bad choices.”  A few too many traffic tickets.  A bit of theft.  An unsuccessful attempt to outrun the cops.  A bar brawl.  A burglary.  Some or all of the above . . . and then some.

Fast forward to today.  It’s been 10 . . . 15 . . . maybe 20 years since any trouble with the law.  He has a career, or maybe his own business, and a family.  But here’s what he doesn’t have: the right under Washington law and federal law to own or possess firearms.   He has one or two, or even more, felony convictions on his record, and every felony conviction disqualifies him.

It does not even take a felony case to lose firearm rights.  Conviction for a misdemeanor offense with a “domestic violence” tag also terminates gun rights.

And in nearly every case, it does not matter whether the conviction has been expunged, or whether the charge was dismissed under some deferral program offered as a plea deal by the prosecuting attorney.  As far as the authorities are concerned, the conviction still prohibits firearm possession.

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If you have a conviction in Washington for a domestic-violence misdemeanor, you may be able to have a court restore your rights under Washington law to possess firearms.  But federal authorities may not recognize the Washington court order, so you could be in a position where your possession of firearms does not violate Washington state law, but does violate federal law.

Before giving up hope of ever owning a gun again, take a close look at whether your conviction truly fits the federal definition of “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.”  The federal definition is much narrower than the definition appearing in Washington law.   To put things a little differently, an offense classified as a DV offense under Washington law may not be classified as a DV offense under federal law.  In that situation, if your Washington gun rights are restored there is no prohibition on your right to possess firearms.

For example, in order to qualify under federal law as a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” an element of the crime must be the use of force or the threat to use force (such as an assault).  Thus, if your conviction is for violating a protection order, it does not prohibit your possession of firearms under federal law, because one can commit the offense without using force (by telephoning the protected person, for example).

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