You might think only murderers and rapists get their firearms taken away. Well, think again. Here are just a few things that could lead to the confiscation of your deer rifle: drag racing in Pennsylvania (it’s a felony in the Keystone State), becoming a fugitive from justice (not showing up for traffic court counts), having a protection order placed against you (a shoving match with your neighbor can result in one of these) and getting convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (a fist fight with your brother qualifies).
Basically, if you plead guilty to or are convicted of any federal law that can be punished by one year or more in jail, your state has the right to confiscate your .30/06. Likewise, if you plead guilty or are convicted of a state misdemeanor that is punishable by two years in prison, the state can take your Winchester.
Still feel invulnerable? So did Donald G. Arnold, a private investigator who was named a “citizen of the year” in Maryland in 2000 for his work helping the police to stop drug dealers in Baltimore. Arnold recently went to renew his carry permit in Maryland and was denied, because in 1969, after returning from Vietnam, he got into a scuffle with a college student who called him a “baby killer.” Arnold went to court without a lawyer and received a 60-day suspended sentence and unsupervised probation.
What Arnold didn’t know was that 30 years later the Maryland Attorney General would claim that a 1996 decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals allows the state to disqualify a person from possessing firearms based on the sentence he could have received. (At press time two separate bills designed to restore gun rights to people like Arnold were in committee in the Maryland House of Delegates.)
In another case, Thomas Lamar Bean, a Texas resident and former gun dealer, was arrested in Mexico after a box of ammunition was found in his vehicle. Bean was convicted, spent time in a Mexican prison and then came home to find that he could not possess a firearm in the U.S. because of the felony conviction. When Bean petitioned to gain his rights back, he ran into a bureaucratic logjam: a decade ago Congress axed the budget for these requests. Bean, however, won a Texas lawsuit to force the ATF to renew his gun rights, but that didn’t end his battle. At press time the U.S. Supreme Court was due to decide whether federal judges can even restore gun rights.
So before you plead guilty to any criminal violation, get the facts. (In some states public exposure-tinkling on the rose bushes, for example-carries a one- to five-year sentence.) How vulnerable do you feel now?