Virginia Supreme Court Reopens Door On Gun-Rights Restoration For Felons

Virginia Citizens Defense League
Virginia Citizens Defense League

Covington VA –-( Defense attorney Richard Gardiner, who amongst other things is VCDL's corporate attorney, just had an important victory in the Virginia Supreme Court.

For the last few years, because of a bad legal opinion by a Fairfax judge, felons who have had their civil rights restored by the Governor have been unable to get their firearms rights restored. The judge came up with a “unique” legal theory that he did not have the constitutional power to restore firearm rights.

Other judges in other jurisdictions deferred to that opinion claiming that they, too, didn't have the power. That left the citizen in a hopeless position with no way to get his gun rights restored.

Richard appealed one such case all the way to the Supreme Court and won. The Supreme Court ruled 7 to 0 that Circuit Court judges most certainly do have the power to restore the firearm rights of a felon who has had his civil rights restored by the Governor.

This is important to all of us. With more and more laws on the books and more and more felonies to “get tough on crime,” any of us could become an inadvertent felon. I've said it before and will say it again: we need to reverse this trend. Felonies should be for very serious crimes, not for killing the wrong frog, having bolt cutters in the trunk of our car, or inadvertently stepping onto school property while carrying.


State Supreme Court says Virginia courts have say in restoring felons' firearm rights

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS September 14, 2012 – 6:50 pm EDT

RICHMOND, Va. — The state Supreme Court ruled Friday the courts have the sole discretion in Virginia whether felons who have served their time can have their firearm rights restored.

The justices ruled in the case of two felons who had their political rights separately restored by former Gov. Tim Kaine and current Gov. Bob McDonnell. In both instances, the governors restored the former felons' rights to vote, hold office and sit on a jury.

Both former felons, however, were not granted the right to ship, transport, possess or receive firearms. The two appealed to circuit courts in Fairfax and Buchanan counties and both courts denied the appeals.

The justices wrote that Kaine and McDonnell correctly exercised their constitutional authority in restoring political rights, and properly referred the question about the rights on firearms to circuit courts.

“The jurisdiction to restore firearm rights lost in those circumstances is vested solely in the circuit court,” they wrote.

The justices added, “A person convicted of a felony in Virginia must first obtain an order from the governor removing his political disabilities as a condition precedent to his right to petition the circuit court for restoration of his firearm rights.”

Such decisions, the court wrote, involve local concerns about public safety and should provide an opportunity for local prosecutors to have a say in the proceedings.

The justices said the lower courts erred in concluding that the governors' actions precluded them from acting on rights involving firearms.

The Supreme Court returned both appeals to the lower courts for further review.

Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc. (VCDL). VCDL is an all-volunteer, non-partisan grassroots organization dedicated to defending the human rights of all Virginians. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms is a fundamental human right. Visit:

  • 39 thoughts on “Virginia Supreme Court Reopens Door On Gun-Rights Restoration For Felons

    1. i am a va resedent that has had my gun rights taken away for a non felony crime and would like to get my gun rights restored for hunting porposes everyone in my famly hunts and for years all i have been able to do is hunt with a bow, what can i do to get my rights back without spending a bunch nof money in this day and age there is not a whole lot of money going around and hunting is a big part of our food supply

      1. I can help you, I had a friend in the courthouse who stuck her neck out for me and she will never be known but I know what to do and I can do it for you depending on where you live and how much the court costs are it will not be as expensive as an attorney but I MAKE NO GUARANTEES that you will get it, I am battling the supreme court for my husband right now, my fee is $100 to do it and you also have to pay the court costs, but again I can make no guarantee that you will receive it.

        1. Hi Laurie,
          Are you still offering your services to help one get “things” together for the courts?
          isleyscott at msn dot com

        2. Laurie, what you’re doing is called the unauthorized practice of law and is a crime. If you don’t know what to do, you should hire an attorney.

    2. A little leg work is all it takes. Once you have your papers with the governors seal reinstating your civil rights you take those and go to your local circuit court and petition the courts. I had to draw up my own petition and present that once all the paperwork was turned in with about 50 bucks in court costs I was given a court date before the judge and stated my case. He granted the petition then you have to send copies of all the papers and petitions ( signed of course ) to the va state police so they can update the transaction database then your all good. Start to finish took about three months with all my procrastinating.

      1. Todd I have begun all my paperwork and sent it to the courthouse. I am now awaiting a hearing date but the circuit court clerk is saying that I need an order prepared for the judge to sign but I do not know what order they are talking about. Do you have any info on what this order may pertain to so that I am ready to go when time comes for the hearing.

        1. Hey Jim,
          Not sure if you’re getting motifications or not, but thanks!!
          You gave point on solid advice. My rights are restored, all of them. I no longer have any worries. I have my gus (and ammo) along with conceal carry. I,have gone as far as class 3 (automatic holders/FFL)
          Thanks for good advice. Take care and be well.

        2. Hey James, I am just reading this blog about you getting your gun rights back. My question for you is.
          Did you ever find out what was in the Order for judge to sign? if so can you send me a copy so that I may prepare a order for the Judge to sign>

          1. Stacey,
            I will look at my order when I get home and post a PDF of it for you

            I believe an order is simply verbiage stating that you have/have not been granted the right to own, carry, etc… simply put, you write out and judge signs.

      2. I have all my info from the court and I download the form. Do I need to draw up something else to go with this or just fill out form and submit

        1. Just fill it out and send in.

          With the supreme court making McAuliffs action unwarranted/over-stepping boundaries, there may be a little delay, but worth it!!
          I had apples prior to blanket forgiveness, but those 13k that fell under the blanket will be getting official forgiveness via his personal actions.
          Be patient as is is worth it!!!!

    3. Laurie, what you’re doing is called the unauthorized practice of law and is a crime. If you don’t know what to do, you should hire an attorney.

    4. So, can anyone offer me help?
      I was convicted of a few felonies in a few jurisdictions several (about 29 years) ago. Non-violent (BE and Grand Larceny on business’ , not people’s homes)
      I have lived in shame and silence for so many years. I never pursued restoration of rights as I was told to not bother (street talk).
      I thought about it a few years back when the last Governor was in office but again, due to listening to “street attorneys” I never bothered as I was told that more than 1 felony meant do not bother.
      I want my rights back. 30 years down the road and I am tired of not being allowed to live my life. I love guns. always have and I guess I always will.
      Any that can offer sound advice would be greatly appreciated. More than words can describe.
      Yes, all convictions in Va. In 5 different jurisdictions.

      Thank You 🙂

      1. I am not sure why 5 felonies will make a difference. You have a lot of time between your deeds and today. Go the the Secretary of the Commonwealths website and download the forms. You have to use the correct form so you need to know whether you crimes are classified as “violent felonies” or not. A violent felony by does not mean that force had to be used or that no one was injured. The short form is for non violent felonies the long form is for all others. Be prepared to tell the folks in Richmond what a good guy you are now as opposed to then. You can hire an attorney for help. It won’t break the bank. After your civil rights are restored you petition the court where you live for restoration of firearm rights. Use an attorney for this as well as they know the Commonwealth Attorney in your court house. You want someone to speak on your behalf. Get character witnesses ready to provide all good guy references…your church, boss, neighbors etc. it is not as difficult as some think. Good luck!

    5. It’s even easier than that now for nonviolent felons, you just go to a website for the Commonwealth, fill in some info, and click “submit”. All in all I had my certificate of Restoration of Civil Rights come in the mail a month or so later. A few years ago when I first looked into it, Drug Distribution was grouped with ” violent felonies” automatically for some unknown reason, but it has since been updated to a more realistic format so I was able to use the online automatic Restoration form for my 2 2002 distribution of marijuana felony convictions. Try the easy online filling first, and if that doesn’t work, then you’ll have to mess around with mailing in the long forms and getting letters about your character from people, etc. Good luck!

        1. Still working on that part as of 4/12/2016. I will come back and let you know when I get an update!

          After this, I plan on writing for a Simple Pardon (as it has been so many years)

          On another note, my attorney who is handling the gun rights restoration was digging up my past, he found 2 felonies that were not on my record (again, all the same time frame) and I suspect that this also is an error on the reporting part on the courts side.

          Again, I will keep you informed.

        2. So, to get everyone on board here.
          The attorney I hired (Robert Herron, in Va.) did in fact help in gaining my firearm rights back. My past record is messed up in that the paperwork shows 5 felonies, but he found 7 but I noted that one set of charges is duplicated. Regardless, my firearm rights were restored!!!

          Then I applied for my CC. It cost $50.00 but, so what? That effort was blocked by some cop/investigator not doing anything but rubber-stamping is paperwork “no” as it was denied based on “past criminal history”. So I had to go back to court, I could look up what that called, the typed of appeal, Ore Tenus hearing I believe, anyway, the evidence presented was simply a notarized document that re-instated my gun rights.

          It ALWAYS helps to have an attorney. They usually know courthouse personnel and this smooths the process.

          If I can be of any help to you folks that are making inquiries, I will be glad to. It sends me notice if someone responds to something I have written, so, ask away.

          Hope others have the same results as I have had (short of being denied conceal carry I mean…that SHOULD have gone right through also) but you get what I mean.

          Take care one and all 🙂

    6. Jim and Justin,
      Thank you both for responding. UPDATE: I had my rights restored, all but the right to own, carry, transport, etc…firearms.
      I was actually surprised. It took me filling out the form and emailing it in. I received a call about first of November from someone, I have forgotten his name, he asked my place of birth and said they would process my application. Low and behold, by the end of Nov., I had a document delivered via snail mail, sealed by Gov. and Comm. Secretary that I now have my political rights restored!!! That easy and no cost.
      I am not a smart person, not really. The whole petition thing befuddles me. I keep finding law offices offices that work for a “flat fee” but make no promises (in other words, they can do a half-baked attempt and get nothing done but I’m on the hook for 1k up.
      If anyone, either of you two gentlemen especially, can help, that would be beyond gratitude for the assistance.
      I would put my email out here but I am sure they would block it.
      Again, thank you both for responding. Words of kindness are really nice and encouraging.
      Take care and be well. Have a happy, joyful and fulfilling holiday season!!

    7. I had my civil rights restored a few years ago after filing the forms myself. I am about to file the necessary paperwork to request a simple pardon by the governor as well as petitioning the circuit court to restore my right to possess a firearm. I am going to act pro se, that is I am not going to hire an attorney because I don’t think it necessary. I do not know exactly what to do. I plan on going to the Circuit Court Law Library and see what I can find. Generally speaking, I know how to write a legal petiton but I do not know the exact format for this particular one. Someone here has done this and if he can simply tell me the elements that it contained, that would be helpful. You can find examples by looking for images with Google for “examples of a legal petition to a court of law” something like that. I don’t know if you have to notice the court that you are appearing on your own behalf, that is pro se. A copy of the petition should be sent to the Office of the Commonwealth Attorney in the Circuit Court where you will be filing. An Assistant Commonwealth Attorney will represent the state in opposing your petition. If you are acting pro se, you have the right to speak directly with the Assistant Attorney who will oppose you. This may sound odd, but that is how this works. If you were represented by an attorney, he would be communicating with him instead of you. Some assistant attorney’s may be unprofessional, but most will be cordial and speak with you. He will likely tell you outright whether or not he will oppose your petition. If he states that he will not, that is great, you are now only dealing with the Judge. If the Judge approves your petition, he will sign the order. You have to furnish the order when you file your petition. An Order also follows a particular form. Again, you can get a general idea what that looks like by going to Google and searching for “examples of court order,” something like that. However, again, I don’t know the exact form with respect to restoration of the right to possess and transport firearms after a conviction. I was thinking of contacting the NRA if my visit to Circuit Court did not yield the information I need. So, if anyone can simply provide me with the elements of both the petition and the Order, then I can construct it and put it up somewhere. (A mere sample of what these legal forms look like absent individual legal advice is not practicing law.)

      1. Hey Andrew
        I am just reading your message and i am wondering if you ever receive and information concerning what the petiton and court order look like or how worded? If so can you please let me know especially the wording of the court order!

    8. I had my rights restored several years ago and wanted to file for my gun rights back, it would be in Fairfax county but was told by the lawyer whom defended me that it would be a waste of time as the courts rarely give gun rights back, and I would be wasting my money and time. My felony is about 20 years old and was non violent, does anybody know how hard it is to get your gun rights restored in Fairfax county? I do not even live in Virginia so I thought maybe they wouldn’t oppose it as much as if I was a resident.

      1. Travis,
        Go here:

        To answer your question, apparently, Governor McAuliffe, as of April 22, 2016, has restored the rights of ALL felons convicted prior to April 22, 2016 provided all the terms/conditions set forth by your sentencing court were/ have been met.
        That being said and moving forward. You will no longer get an official notice of rights restoration. These are for CIVIL RIGHTS ONLY. Your right to own, posses, carry and transport firearms is NOT included in the order. You still have to apply to the circuit court for this right.
        Since you do not live in Va. now, you must apply to the area where convicted, or really, any Va, court I believe. You may be able to apply to the area that you now live in (I hope not Ca. or Fla., they are sticklers about not giving rights back. NC is pretty tough as well).

        So, on the upside, as of April 22, 2016, you now have your civil rights back. I would suggest you contact an attorney in your area now to ask about firearm rights. I did and guess what??!! I now have my rights back (another post I’m about to make)

        1. I see on the bottom of the restoration of rights from the link you sent me that he included the same wording about transport, receive or carry a firearm and that is why the Judge in WV said no, I don’t believe he is correct as I found a case in the VA supreme court saying that the lower courts had made an error in thinking that they could not grant the right to a firearm because of the wording, I just don’t know how strict Fairfax judges are on granting the right to a firearm back. I had awhile back contacted the lawyer who represented me in my original case and he stated GOOD LUCK unless I made a substantial contribution to the Judges campaign, sounded to me like a bribe, but who am I !!!

    9. I am trying to get my firearms rights back, I had a non-violent felony about 20 yrs. ago and have already gotten my restoration of rights from the governor, I tried going to the courts in WV where I live but were denied only because of the sentence at the end of the restoration of rights paperwork that says I did not have the right to possess, transport or carry a firearm.The prosecutor and judge were both in favor of giving my right back but the judge stated because the governor wrote that on the paperwork and it exactly followed the federal wording that he was unable to give it to me. I was sentenced in Fairfax VA does anyone know how they are as far as allowing the rights to be restored. I was told by a lawyer in VA. that Fairfax county does not give firearms rights back ,is this true?

    10. 1) get restoration of civil rights back.eatr
      2) petition the court you were sentenced in to have your right to possess and carry firearms back. If now living put of state petition the last court in which you were convicted.

      I am about to do number two in Arlington. I found the format to the petition in the Arlington County law library. When I finish the process, I will post the general format here. While I am probably going to act pro se, I have not decided. While I know the process and am confident that I can do it, I have learned the hard way that having the right lawer can literally be the difference between life and death. In my case had I chosen a Patti lawyer, as a first time offender for prescription fraud (I was sick and forged them only for myself,) I would have received at most a misdemeanor instead of nine felonies. They destroyed my life. This happened in 2003. I have never been able to find a job since then despite sending out a boat load of resumes. I am nowy 64. I can’t even get a job delivering food. I had been a physician. (It’s a long story lol.) The irony is that if I emigrated to Russia I would be welcomed and not only work but work as a physician!

    11. I had 3 violent felonies in 2 different counties in VA 15 years ago. I have my civil rights restored and am getting close to petitioning for my civil rights restoration. I was told that I should wait probably until 20 years goes by which I dont understand. I was a teenager at the time and young and dumb. I actually obtained a college degree while incarcerated and am a very productive member of society. I do volunteer work etc. I just want to be able to protect my family is all.

    12. The VA Supreme Court just threw out the Governor’s blanket restoration of rights orders, so you would still need to apply for your own individual removal of political disabilities before you could petition the Circuit Court for restoration of gun/ammo privileges. Even if you receive a restoration, the federal government does not recognize its validity, so if you get caught on federal property or by federal law enforcement, you are still a going to be charged and convicted. I heard a rumor that the VA State Police is also stonewalling removing people who have been restored from the database.

      1. Interesting they threw it out. I’m a sure the Gov. will try again.

        As to the feds not recognizing, I’m not too sure about that. I applied and got FFL CLASS 3. Thats straight from the federal government. Not to mention, the feds cannot block based on state law.

        As to Va. State Police blocking or stonewalling , I have purchased 2 handguns thus far with no problems.

        I’m sure what you say has validity as you’re well spoken, but as for me, so far things are okay!

    13. Hello,
      I preparing to draft a petition to get my gun rights back and i need to know how the court Order is worded. the additional piece of petetion that follows that actual petition.

    14. Hello I was convicted of 2 felonies in January of 2006 possession of schedule 2 drugs meth and coke. I have had my rights restored by the governor for 3 or 4 years now and really would like my gun rights restored. I like to shoot guns for fun and hunt. I live on Social Security Disability and can’t afford a lawyer. I called the Circuit Ct where I live and they told me it was $110 to file a petition but there aren’t any forms to fill out. I guess I have to draft the petition myself. Not really sure I found some form online but it doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Any help from anyone would be great.

    15. It is so simple you don’t need to ask. Write a Petition,. a letter, stating that you are seeking restoration of your Gun rights. Add that your Civil rights have been restored. Write about your progress, why you want your Gun Rights, they like hearing for Hunting and Defending Home only if necessary. It is almost as easy as getting Civil Rights Restored, except you write a letter and pay a small fee and talk to the Judge. Attach copies of your restoration of Civil Rights, and anything you feel looks beneficial to your ‘recovery’. Honestly, it is the easiest process. I did the same when getting my Restricted License. 9 other people had Lawyers, I didn’t. I could here them gasping over how easy it was without throwing away that money. I petitioned for my Gun Rights in July of 2016, had them on Oct the 13th 2016. A Petition is only a letter asking for your rights to be restored. On the Va State Police site they have a form but it is for people who have been put in a mental ward. You can take that if worried about the Judge having a form besides your petition to sign. SIMPLE!!!!!!!!!!

    16. Joshua,
      You are coerect in saying it is an easy process, however I don’t think that telling people to just go for it is the best path. If they do this wrong ad get denied, I believe there would be a 2 year waiting g period to try again. That’s a big gamble to take when it could easily been avoided by horn an attorney
      Yes, it costs money, but speaking as an ex-felon, [you] made a mistake and we all know that people are not generally so forgiving.
      As I stated before, hiring an attorney in [your] area is best bet. They typically know courthouse personnel and make the process easier to cope with.
      I would tell most people reading this that if you have served your time, paid fines/costs and restitution, clear of all pae/probation monitoring, and a few years habe passed, most likely you’ll get restoration of [gun] rights with little to no problems.
      Again, it’s just my opinion…not trying to harsh you.

    17. Charlie,
      You are right. My charges were class 6 felonies. It probably makes a difference as to what you were charged with. Just because something worked for me, in no way means it works for someone else. I had no clue about a extra 2 year waiting period. I again had 0 problems doing it myself so I didn’t run into that. I also spent days at the library looking up cases and law which I see I didn’t write. It also makes a difference what Court you are going to. In Virginia, you can go to the Court where you were charged or if you live in a different Jurisdiction, that Court. I used Chesterfield County. Which is a hard on everyone Court. Before doing it yourself, check that 2 year wait if denied. Let that weigh in. Good luck. No problem Charlie.

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