The Quiet Army: Felon Firearm Rights Restoration in the Fourth Circuit

19 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2014 Last revised: 22 Nov 2014

Robert Luther III

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: November 14, 2014

Abstract

This article discusses the restoration of firearm rights for felons and specifically addresses the methods by which individuals convicted of felonies under state law may be relieved of collateral federal firearms disabilities in the Fourth Circuit, with a particular emphasis on the practice in Virginia. It concludes by calling on the Fourth Circuit to make clear in an appropriate case that “a defendant’s ‘civil rights’ have been restored under state law for purposes of 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20) if the state has also restored the defendant’s right to possess firearms.” Due to the Supreme Court of Virginia's interpretation of the Virginia Constitution in Gallagher v. Commonwealth, which concluded that the governor lacked the authority to restore firearm rights and that only the state trial court could do so, the Fourth Circuit’s failure to construe 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20) as suggested will have the unintended and disparate effect of failing to relieve all state-convicted felons in Virginia from their collateral federal firearm disabilities. To read 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20) not to remove a federal firearms disability when the felon has received the unrestricted restoration of his firearm rights by a Virginia trial court would yield a perverse result because the purpose of this statute was to redirect the restoration process to the states.

Keywords: felons, firearms disabilities, firearms rights restoration, Virginia Constitution, collateral consequences

Suggested Citation

Luther, Robert, The Quiet Army: Felon Firearm Rights Restoration in the Fourth Circuit (November 14, 2014). 23 William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal 237 (2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2524679

Robert Luther III (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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