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

Why Second Amendment Sanctuaries Are Important In Virginia & the U.S., Allexxandar-iStock-884220580
Virginia Supreme Court Reopens Door On Gun-Rights Restoration For Felons. iStock-884220580

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.

About VCDL

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:

Virginia Citizens Defense League

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Sadly John, You will in all probability not be successful in that aspect as the department in the federal government is still defunct. More closely described is they shut down the part of the BATF that does the checking of records so you can get your rights back. De-funded is a better word. Unless D. Trump (finally we have a good President) allots funding, you will be in a stall. Not what you want to hear, but that’s how it is. You could probably get away with hunting, just don’t screw around with anything federal. One method of testing is… Read more »


Hi everyone this is a great blog, did anyone ever get a sample of what the order would look like, I would like to file this wek and that is all I need to complete my paperwork. Thanks in advance for any assistance.

Heather Brown

Good Morning!! Quick update for ya’ll….had court this morning, and I now have all my rights back! I have to say, that was the oddest court hearing I have ever had. Apparently the Commonwealth Attorney didn’t have tome in hos busy schedule, so my lawyer represented both sides, lol. the only objection the commonwealth had was the number of priors on my record, however, they are all from the same thing. I barely had to speak, my lawyer did most of that. The whole process of getting into court took a hell of a lot longer than the hearing! I… Read more »


Congratulations on your win in court today Heather. I’ll let you know on the 28th when I go to court in front of judge hauler what is said.

James Moss

Good morning everyone. I went before Judge Hauler in Chesterfield yesterday for my restoration hearing and it all went without a hitch. They only asked about my restitution balance as I’m still paying it. The judge assured me that I should have my order my mid week. Thanks everyone for all of the input. It was much appreciated.


Yep, way to go!! Don’t forget, get your CC ASAP! That way you won’t have to worry about traveling with a weapon. My attorney had told me to write on all firearm purchases “rights restored” but in a subsequent conversation with state police, he said to not do that. Oh, speaking of state police, you should make several, notorized copies if yor rights restoration, keep handy with you always as the system is not really set up for the documentation of rights being restored. Also, mail a copy to the state police yourself. The courthouse is supposed to do this… Read more »

Heather Brown

Good info!!! I am as prepared as one can be, character letters in hand and fingers crossed! Proper grammar is a huge pet peeve so no worries there! As much as I HATE to use the “weaker sex” B.S., I have that as one of my points. I will let you all know the outcome on Friday. It’s crazy, I never, NEVER thought about owning a firearm until the last year or so, but the world is a crazy, crazy place these days, and unfortunately not a safe one for a female traveling alone at night (night time delivery driver).… Read more »

Joshua Shaw

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… Read more »

James Moss

Joshua, I am also going to Chesterfield Circuit Court on the 28th of this month for restoration of gun rights. I’m set to go before Judge Hauler whom is firm but fair. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that all is successful. I have a lot going in my favor as far as character reference letters as well as witnesses whom will testify on my behalf. I will be representing pro se with a petition that I also drafted myself. I’ve been told that it could go either way as to either being easy or being an uphill battle. It’s all… Read more »

Heather Brown

Hey! I have court in Chesterfield Count on Friday 4/7/2017 to have my firearms rights restored. What was your outcome? I wish I was going in front of Hauler, however I have been assigned to McCullum, whom I have never heard of. I have hired an attorney to represent me, but I am still nervous. (Courts always do that!!) Please let me know if you were successful or not, and if so, what did you say to the judge for him to grant your rights back?


James Moss

I actually go to see judge hauler the last Friday of this month. I believe that judge that you have to go in front of is the successor of judge Shelton aka the million year judge.


Heather, The judges ask little. Your attorney will enter his plea (motion) as to why you should get your rights back. In my case, I simply stated I wanted to be able to teach my boys how to use a weapon and also for home defense (that’s always a good one as the world has become crazier and crazier and home invasions have jumped up a lot). Being female, you can always use the “weaker sex” thing…like, you’re scared due to being almost assaulted. I know, sorry….but as someone once told me, ride the coat tails if you can!! The… Read more »


James, I would think with Hauler you would be ok. He is a fair Judge. Of course he will ask the commonwealth attorney what he thinks, but you’ve made it to this point, you should be fine. They do like seeing people who have changed there lives. To them getting in trouble 1 time makes you a bad person until you prove otherwise. So the fact that you care enough to not just stay out of trouble, but pay your fines and get your Civil Rights Restored shows your past is as should be, behind you. Let me know how… Read more »


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… Read more »

Joshua Shaw

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… Read more »


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… Read more »

Stacey Christian

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.


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.


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!


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.


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,… Read more »

Travis Richey

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… Read more »


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… Read more »


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.… Read more »

Travis Richey

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… Read more »


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… Read more »

Stacey Christian

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!


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… Read more »

Justin K

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.… Read more »


Soo were you successful in gaining your firearm privileges back or no???


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.


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… Read more »


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… Read more »


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… Read more »


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.

Todd B

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… Read more »


I have a dv on my record. I still have my civil rights. Can I peition the courts to get my gun rights back?




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.


hey james,
do you have a form or info on how to file or a pdf, i sure want my gun rights back.


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.

Stacey Christian

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>


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.


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


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!!!!

Charles P Wilson

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


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… Read more »


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


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.

cecil hartman

hey laurie,
get in touch i need your help. the sooner the better

Mary j

Hi Laurie,
I was just denied on obtaining my firearm rights back by the judge. Can you help me?


i meeting with an attorney about this tomorrow. I have a 1994 conviction for possesion of mushrooms.. What should I ask