Felony Firearms Restoration Act

The Felony Firearms Act makes it illegal in North Carolina for anyone convicted of a felony to possess a firearm. A felony is generally a crime that is potentially punishable by a year or more incarceration, although the Act does not apply to felony convictions related to unfair trade practices, antitrust or restraints of trade. A provision of the Felony Firearms Act provides an avenue for eligible individuals with very old, nonviolent convictions to petition to have their right to possess a firearm restored.


A person convicted of a nonviolent felony (or felonies, if they all arose from the same event and were consolidated at sentencing) who has had their civil rights restored for at least 20 years is eligible to petition their local district court for a restoration of firearm rights. A person cannot have their civil rights restored until they have fulfilled all of the terms of their sentence, including restitution, fines and supervised release (parole). Once this is complete, the individual can file a civil action to have the rights that were taken away from them as a felon restored. These rights typically include the right to:

  • Vote
  • Hold public office
  • Serve as a juror
  • Work in an establishment where alcohol is served
  • Obtain and hold certain local or state licenses (this one is discretionary, meaning it is up to the government to further restrict this right. This is why the right to own a gun license, for example, does not automatically restore with the rest of these).

So you filed to have your rights restored after you served your sentence for a single, nonviolent felony, and your rights have been restored for at least 20 years. To petition to have your right to possess a firearm in North Carolina, you must also:

  1. Have been a resident of North Carolina for at least a year in the time immediately before filing the petition
  2. Have only “one” felony conviction for a nonviolent crime. For the purposes of the Act, a person’s multiple felony convictions that arose out of the same event and were consolidated at sentencing count as one felony only.
  3. Not have been convicted at any state or federal level of a misdemeanor crime of violence since the nonviolent felony conviction. Examples of misdemeanor crimes of violence include harassing/communicating with a juror, possessing a weapon on educational property, and child abuse.
  4. Submit your fingerprints to the country sheriff for a criminal background check
  5. Pay $200 in court fees with your petition (unless you are indigent)
  6. NOT fall under any of the following categories:
    1. Another North Carolina law takes away your eligibility to possess a firearm
    2. You currently have an indictment or probable cause finding for a felony against you
    3. You are a fugitive from justice
    4. There is a protective, ex parte or emergency order against you in any state still in effect
    5. A civil no-contact order against you is still in effect

If you petition to have your right to possess a firearm restored and it is denied, you cannot re-petition the court until a year has passed since the first denial. The exception to this is if the reason you were denied was because (d) or (e) from above applied to you, in which case you may re-petition the court when the order against you expires.

If a person has their firearm rights restored but is subsequently convicted of another felony, that person’s firearm rights are automatically revoked again and cannot be restored under the Restoration Act.

Until 2004 the Felony Firearms Act allowed applicants with restored civil rights for a period of only five (5) years to be eligible for restoration. However, in 2004 the North Carolina legislature changed this period to 20 years. This left many people with older felony convictions that were once eligible to restore their firearm rights after five years, now ineligible until the 20-year period lapses. If this applies to you and you still possess previously-legal firearms, it is critical that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. People who voluntarily surrendered their firearms once the new law passed in 2004 did not have it held against them, but still possessing firearms so long after they became illegal could have serious legal consequences.

If the Felony Firearm Restoration Act otherwise applies to you, it is important to take advantage of it if you want to possess a firearm. Violating the Felony Firearms Act is a Class G felony, which has a normal sentencing range of 12 to 26 months incarceration if it is your second offense (the underlying felony counts as the first offense).

If you or a loved one is interested in taking advantage of the Felony Firearms Restoration Act, or have been charged with a gun possession related crime, it is important to have a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney to fight for your rights. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today for a consultation with one of our dedicated criminal defense attorneys.