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Up in arms: a felon’s right to gun ownership

A man checks a rifle that is for sale at Blue Ridge Arsenal October 3, 2001 in Chantilly, Va.
A man checks a rifle that is for sale at Blue Ridge Arsenal October 3, 2001 in Chantilly, Va.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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True or false: Federal law dictates felons lose their right to bear arms. True. True or false: Felons can get those rights back, even those convicted of murder. Also true.

In fact, in some states a judge can reinstate those rights without review; in other states, gun rights are automatically restored after felons complete their sentence. In Washington state alone, The New York Times reports that “since 1995, more than 3,300 felons and people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors have regained their gun rights," 13 percent of whom committed new crimes.

The breakdown occurs at the intersection of state and federal laws. Under federal law, a presidential pardon is the only way to restore ownership rights to felons. But in the 1980s, after a series of reforms by the National Rifle Association, Congress granted state laws jurisdiction to oversee reinstatement.

Just yesterday, the House passed a law that would require states to honor concealed weapon permits issued by other states.


Should convicted felons be granted the right to bear arms? Should a felon’s mental health be taken into consideration? Is this an issue over the Second Amendment or safety?


Michael Luo, reporter, the New York Times

Jim Irvine, chairman, Buckeye Firearms Association

Adam Winkler, constitutional law professor at UCLA; author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America; he writes for The Huffington Post & Daily Beast