Felon in Possession of a Weapon

In general, the law prohibits an individual convicted of a felony from possessing or purchasing a firearm under specific conditions. While there are some provisions under federal law that allow certain felons to have their gun rights restored, Congress has not declared this provision a law.

Over the past 30 years, Minnesota and federal laws have changed and crimes that used to not be felonies are now considered felonies. This has resulted in arguments regarding non-violent felons having their firearms rights restored. However, legal traction has not been gained and that means nothing has been implemented. Outside of a pardon, these individuals have not been able to gain back their rights to own weapons.

Nonetheless, a question that manySt. Paul criminal defense lawyers find individuals asking is what types of weapons can a convicted felon possess, if any?

In Minnesota, felons are to not own weapons unless certain conditions exist and the federal law is a rather technical one in that it could be possible for a felon to purchase and own specific types of muzzle loading firearms.

Generally, these weapons are defined as guns that were manufactured before or during 1898 and they are loaded from the muzzle, which is the open end of the barrel. A firing pin or primer being ignited does not trigger these firearms. Instead, a flint stone or percussion cap ignites the weapon.

These are considered antique firearms and federal law does state that a person convicted of a felony can possess an antique firearm.

However, there are a number of current firearms that use black powder and are made from the components of modern firearms. These weapons are not counted as antique firearms although the firing mechanisms may be similar. This means that careful research is required when wishing to own such a firearm.

If an unintended violation of the firearms law is committed, just like an intentional violation, the prison sentence could be lengthy, so any attempts to own a black powder firearm must be evaluated very carefully. That way there is no chance of violating the law.

The specific conditions that exist in Minnesota in regards to those convicted of a felony possessing a weapon are as follows:

  • The individual cannot own or possess a firearm if they have been convicted or adjudicated for a felony-level drug offense or a crime of violence, unless ten years have passed since the restoration of their civil rights or since sentence discharge, whichever occurs first. During that time, the person is to not be convicted of any other offense.
  • A person who has been convicted of a felony with a punishment of more than one year in jail whose civil rights have yet to be restored.
  • A person currently charged with a felony that warrants more than one year imprisonment, the prohibition is limited to semiautomatic assault weapons and pistols.

Violation is a gross misdemeanor, except in the case of illegal possession of an assault weapon or pistol by a minor, which is punishable as a five-year felony and illegal possession. If convicted of a violent crime, the prison sentence is 15 years if convicted.