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Common Questions Regarding Gun Rights

by Oct 11, 2022Criminal Defense Attorney, Dea Cortney, Gun Rights

With so much recent talk about gun laws, it’s important for Minnesotans to remain informed about their rights and responsibilities. We sat down with Dea Cortney, one of Sieben Edmunds Miller’s criminal defense attorneys, to discuss the laws pertaining to those who have been convicted of a crime in the past and whether these individuals are eligible to own a firearm.

What is the process for revoking ones’ gun ownership rights?

Gun ownership rights are automatically revoked if a person is ineligible to possess firearms under state or federal law.  If the person has a permit to purchase or carry at the time they become ineligible, the permit is no longer valid.  If someone becomes ineligible but did not already have a permit, they would not qualify for a permit unless or until their rights are restored.

Who is not eligible to possess a firearm in Minnesota?

Minnesota law provides that certain persons are not to possess firearms.  The reasons an otherwise eligible person may have their rights removed include:

  •         Conviction for a crime of violence
  •         Conviction for a felony
  •         Conviction for a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor drug possession or sale crime under Minn. Stat. chapter 152
  •         Conviction for certain gross misdemeanor offenses including harassment or stalking
  •         Conviction for certain misdemeanor domestic assault offenses
  •         Being subject to certain Harassment Restraining Orders (HRO) and Orders for Protection

What are Minnesota’s gun laws for individuals who have been convicted of a crime? Are firearm rights always revoked?

Conviction in Minnesota of certain crimes, including those listed above, causes the revocation of firearm rights for at least three years but possibly the remainder of someone’s life.  A person convicted of a crime that does not cause revocation of firearm rights may, nonetheless, be subject to probationary conditions that include no use or possession of firearms while on probation.  But, firearm rights are not always revoked following conviction of a crime.  Most crimes do not carry the penalty of loss of gun rights.

What kinds of criminal convictions make a defendant ineligible to restore their gun rights?

Conviction for certain (but not all) domestic assault crimes creates a lifetime ban of firearm rights under federal law, which cannot be restored under Minnesota law.  

Are individuals who have been convicted of a felony eligible to own a firearm in Minnesota?

Generally, a person convicted for a felony that was not a crime of violence is eligible to own a firearm again once they are “off paper,” meaning that they have completed their sentence and any related probation, parole, conditional release, etc.  Certain offenses carry a three-year ban on firearm rights.  This could extend the period of ineligibility even if a person is “off paper” sooner than the three years.

What do gun owners need to do to protect others, including children, from accessing their guns?

Whenever possible, a gun owner should leave their gun unloaded to prevent accidental discharge. The gun should be stored in a safe place out of the reach of children. Many gun owners prefer to keep their guns in a safe. Gun locks are another easy option for keeping firearms secured. 

If you would like easy access to a gun in your home in case of emergency, consider storing ammunition in a different location. For example, if your gun is in your nightstand, you may want to store your ammo in your dresser drawer. These are both easily accessible locations, but anyone who wants to use the weapon must know the location of both the gun and ammo. This can help prevent anyone who stumbles across your weapon from actually using it. These tips are important for gun owners who want to protect themselves from a criminal charge of Negligent Storage of Firearms, which is a Gross Misdemeanor.

What is the rate of Minnesota firearms deaths compared to deaths in other states?

According to the CDC, Minnesota had 8.9 firearm injury deaths per 100,000 in 2020. This is the lowest rate in the Upper Midwest and eighth-lowest in the nation. Minnesota does have relatively strict gun laws, including the laws surrounding granting a child access to a firearm. Even if a child does not cause injury, the adult can still be held responsible for their irresponsible storage of the weapon. Additionally, many Minnesotans grow up hunting and may take gun safety classes at a young age. These factors may prevent irresponsible gun ownership and use. It is important to remember that any adult can be a responsible gun owner by following the rules of gun safety. That’s why we’re happy to help responsible gun owners restore their firearm rights after a conviction.

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