Gun Rights: The Consequences of Conviction. A Washington Criminal Defense Lawyer | Attorney’s Perspective.
The short answer. One automatically loses the right to possess a gun for any Washington felony conviction and any misdemeanor | gross misdemeanor domestic violence conviction that involves dangerous behavior directed at another person. The only exception to automatic loss of the right to possess a firearm involving misdemeanor | gross misdemeanor domestic violence charges are ones that involve exclusively property damage, like malicious mischief in the 3rd Degree. Why? The logic appears to be that people who only damage property do not necessarily fit the profile of impulsive assaultive behavior towards others that make weapons so dangerous. That being said, a judge still has the discretion to restrict weapon ownership for property damage if it relates to domestic violence, so any negotiation, trial stance or sentencing must anticipate this.
As defense attorneys who practice criminal law, we know that the right to possess firearms is derived from:
The Federal 2nd Amendment Right to Possess Firearms as codified in the Bill of Rights:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” and the Washington State Declarations of Rights:
“SECTION 24 RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.”
However, the right to possess firearms is not absolute and can be subject to reasonable regulation under the government’s police power to protect the public’s safety and welfare. A criminal conviction is one such circumstance where gun and firearm possession can be limited.
In Washington State, one automatically loses the right to possess firearms as a consequence of being convicted of a felony. It is possible to restore gun rights in some cases if enough time has gone by after completing all the requirements of sentencing and any supervised or unsupervised probation. However, this does not mean your Federal rights are restored, so additional action may be necessary.
Most misdemeanors do not affect your right to possess firearms; however, crimes that involve the Domestic Violence tag do. The statistics match logic and common sense: disputes that result in violence between two people who live in close proximity to each other are the most volatile and prone to impulsive acts of violence, especially with handguns. The key to avoiding a gun restriction in this setting is to either avoid a conviction through plea negotiations or trial; or, under the right situation, plead only to property damage crimes that do not fit the definition of domestic violence laid out in the Federal Law under the Lautenberg Amendment. As criminal defense lawyers who have handled a lot of domestic violence cases, we say the “right situation” because any judge still has the right to restrict firearm possession in domestic violence property crimes, it is just not mandatory that they do so. Experience, carefully evaluating the facts, and using professional evaluations to bolster a viewpoint are essential steps in weighing whether to take this kind of risk for avid hunters, collectors and members of the armed forces.
The criminal defense lawyers | attorneys in our office have handled a wide variety of complicated cases in the criminal and administrative arenas over the course of our lengthy legal careers. We are a unique blend of courtroom experience, knowledge, skills and temperament. Our lawyers know cases are rarely as simple as the police reports or accusations claim and our clients hire us because they want staunch, uncompromising and effective counsel who takes the time to fight vigorously for the right result. Whether acting in our role as counsel, advocate, negotiator or litigator, we have years of experience working and fighting to resolve cases with our clients’ best interests in mind.