The right to bear arms is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. This right is reiterated in the Oregon Constitution as well. In the aftermath of certain criminal offenses, however, these rights may be suspended or revoked.
Adults in Oregon who wish to buy firearms are forbidden from doing so if they have been convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors of domestic violence. However, the legal system includes ways to remove or override this prohibition.
Here at Lohrke Law we are familiar with the intricacies of firearm rights in our state. As you continue through this article you’ll learn more about the ways people with a criminal record can once again buy a gun in Oregon.
Attorney Jesse Lohrke explains state and federal firearm rights restoration (Time 6:44)
Gun Purchasing Laws in Oregon
Let’s start with the basics—independent of criminal record status, the state of Oregon regulates the sale of firearms for public safety. Although no permit or registration is required for gun purchases, every seller is required by law to conduct a background check. That applies in any situation, including retail stores, gun shows, and private transfers of ownership. The only exception to the background check requirement is for sales or transfers between close family members. Qualifying relatives are clearly defined in ORS 166.345(4).
If a background check shows certain results, such as a felony conviction, it renders the purchase unlawful. Additionally, unclear records often lead to firearm purchase denials or delays. For example, if a person is arrested for a felony or a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence and the arrest does not result in a conviction, but the criminal history is unclear, the firearms unit often treats it as a conviction. For this reason, it might be a good idea to expunge arrests. If you’re unsure whether you can or cannot purchase a firearm, the state’s self-assessment questionnaire walks Oregonians through the qualifications.
Make an effort to know your criminal history rather than trying to make a purchase as a way of testing whether or not you can lawfully purchase a firearm. You can order your own background check through either the Oregon State Police or the FBI. The cost is reasonable and both require you to submit a set of fingerprints. If you have any convictions outside of Oregon, an FBI background check is the best option.
When Does My Record Matter?
If you have a criminal record, there are many factors that determine whether you can currently or ever buy a gun. At its simplest, a misdemeanor does not tend to affect a person’s ability to legally acquire firearms, but certain misdemeanor convictions of domestic violence or a violent misdemeanor does. A felony also prohibits firearm purchases. Fortunately, a disqualifying condition does not necessarily last forever. There’s a lot to evaluate, so buying a gun with a criminal record in Oregon becomes complex very quickly.
Per the laws of the state, no person who has been convicted of a felony may purchase, own, or possess a firearm. Felonies from Oregon, other states, or the federal government are all treated the same in this regard. If a juvenile is adjudicated for a felony or misdemeanor involving violence, they are restricted from possessing a firearm for four years after discharge from the juvenile court.
People who have outstanding felony warrants for arrest or are free on pretrial release for a felony are likewise ineligible for gun purchases. The rule applies to all guns, including but not exclusive to automatic weapons, handguns, and hunting rifles.
There is an important line drawn between felony convictions and misdemeanors. While a misdemeanor conviction within the last four years makes an adult ineligible for a concealed handgun permit, most offenses do not change the ability to buy guns. There are exceptions for certain categories such as those related to domestic violence.
Remember this key difference between felonies and misdemeanors—it can be of great importance for people with felonies who wish to restore their rights.
Laws are Always Changing
It’s important to stay up-to-date on the law as a gun owner. The state of Oregon’s gun regulations changed drastically over the years. Common knowledge or information that you learned in the past is not necessarily going to remain relevant.
For example, a 2015 law made it mandatory for a background check to occur before the sale of a firearm, even between two private individuals. Another significant change occurred more recently. In 2018 the law that allows reduction of certain felonies to misdemeanors was changed in a way that makes it unclear whether people who serve a prison sentence can ever reduce their felony to a misdemeanor. It was also only a few years ago that Oregon made misdemeanors involving domestic violence a disqualifying factor for firearm purchases. Now, Measure 114 stands to bring new uncertainty to firearm ownership. The status of firearm rights for those with any kind of protective order against them has also changed significantly in recent years. It was once reasonable advice to avoid a hearing because rights were not lost if there was no hearing. Talking to a lawyer is important if any of these situations may apply to you.
Because the law is likely to keep shifting year after year, interested people are encouraged to look into firearm rights restoration as soon as they qualify. Put off the process for too long and you may discover you’re no longer eligible due to a modification of Oregon laws. Political control of the legislature or governor’s office also makes a difference.
To ensure you’re familiar with current regulations and parameters, consult with a lawyer who specializes in expungement and rights restoration such as Lohrke Law.
Rights Restoration vs Expungement vs Felony Reduction
For Oregon, there are three primary ways a person’s status can shift when it comes to their eligibility to make firearm purchases:
- Restoration of firearm rights
- Reduction of a felony to a misdemeanor
- Setting aside of the offense (often referred to as expungement)
It is commonly believed that people who have been convicted of one non-violent felony can wait fifteen years after they are discharged from parole or probation, but it is not true in Oregon. While the statutes do provide that it is not a felony to possess a firearm in some situations after fifteen years, a person can be prosecuted for a misdemeanor. Firearm rights restoration is not automatic!
Of the legal options to restore your rights, a set aside or expungement is often the best. When successful, it removes the conviction from your criminal record. Federal interpretation of the law is constantly changing so check with an experienced firearms attorney. Firearm rights restoration or felony reduction give you the legal right to purchase a gun, though your offense will still be on your record.
Should I Choose Expungement?
When you and your attorney achieve expungement of a felony, it has far-reaching influences beyond your renewed ability to purchase a firearm. To name a few, you will no longer have to declare your felony on job applications, you are more likely to pass a background check to volunteer at a school or with a sports team, and loans or housing can be easier to secure.
To get an expungement, it is beneficial to work with a skilled rights restoration lawyer. Their knowledge of the law’s expectations and the entire process can help ensure success. They can also save you from seeking the relief if you are not actually eligible. Together, you and your lawyer will present the court with the evidence needed for a successful outcome.
Certain types of offenses are not eligible to be set aside (expunged) no matter how much time has passed, including non-marijuana related Class A felonies. Expungement is also off the table for DUII and other driving offenses, most class B felonies except possession of controlled substances, marijuana-related delivery possessions, and most sex offenses.
Timing is essential for a successful expungement. Oregon's laws recently changed to make a lot more people eligible to have their convictions set aside on shorter timelines.
The criteria in this section (and others) should only be applied to Oregon crimes. If you were convicted of a federal crime or move to another state, the rules will differ. Consultation with an attorney can make your eligibility clear. This is why Lohrke Law always offers a free consultation to give you an idea of cost and eligibility.
Should I Choose a Felony Reduction?
Judges in Oregon are given the discretion to reduce any Class C, plus a few Class A and B, felonies to misdemeanors. Specifically, the following potentially qualify for a felony reduction in Oregon:
- Class C Felonies
- Class B Felony for unlawful delivery of marijuana and possession of other controlled substances.
- Class A Felony for marijuana or racketeering activity
This is an effective path to firearm rights restoration, as most misdemeanors require no restriction of gun ownership. There is no set amount of time that a person must wait before applying for a reduction, though any probation period related to the conviction must be complete and the sentence fully performed. This means all money owed, including restitution or fines to the court, must be paid in full.
A reduction requires the presentation of evidence to a judge. A person must prove it is unduly harsh for them to continue to be convicted of the felony, given their history and character. The nature and circumstances of the offense are also taken into consideration. The judge is more likely to be swayed by your demonstrated behavior than any verbal promises alone. Diligent compliance with probation terms and a lack of additional criminal involvement will be considered favorably.
Should I Choose to Petition for Firearm Rights Restoration?
Although petitioning for firearm rights restoration does not overturn or amend your felony conviction, it does allow you to purchase firearms like any other Oregon adult. There is a patience factor here, as with the other options. You can petition for firearm rights to be restored one year after completion of probation or parole, though often it is recommended to wait a bit longer.
With the assistance of an attorney, you must present “clear and convincing evidence” that your possession of a firearm does not pose a safety threat to yourself or the public.
A judge will consider your request from a variety of angles. The context and circumstances of your offense will be factored into the decision, if relevant. Your actions while on probation and afterward will matter, for better or for worse. Statements of general character and reputation are often produced to show suitability. The sheriff in the county where you reside at the time of your petition will also get to offer an opinion for the court to consider. However, the most important factor will probably be a record of no criminal involvement for a substantial period of time.
Legal Proceedings Take Time
A little more on timing: If you’ve just started to research the process of buying a gun with a criminal record in Oregon, do not expect to regain the ability to purchase a rifle next week. The legal process is detailed and takes time. A successful firearm rights restoration takes at least two months, but usually a bit longer. The set aside (expungement) process usually takes three to four months, but can take up to six months or longer in some courts.
Seek Legal Advice Before Buying a Gun with a Criminal Record
Please be aware the material on this page does not constitute legal advice and should not be used to inform legal decisions. To make informed choices regarding gun purchases with a criminal record, speak to an attorney who can evaluate the full details of your particular situation.
If you have lost your rights due to your criminal record, contact Lohrke Law today to learn how your rights may be restored. Our firm has years of knowledge and numerous successes to recommend us. Buying a gun with a criminal record in Oregon can take time and effort, but with experienced attorneys on your side it’s a viable goal for most people. A free consultation with an experienced attorney can quickly make your options and eligibility clear.