Who can't own a firearm? Arizona and federal law bar gun possession by the following classes of persons:

1. Anyone convicted of a felony (Federal law defines this as any offense punishable by more than a year's imprisonment, whether or not the sentence actually was more than a year, but not including "open ended" offenses that the court treated as a misdemeanor. "Open ended" ones are chiefly class 6 felonies, which the court can elect to treat as a misdemeanor if it wants to).

2. Anyone convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.

3. Anyone subject to a domestic violence restraining order [the automatic injunction issued at the start of any Arizona divorce proceeding doesn't count -- it has to be an order involving findings and an opportunity to request a hearing]. This can be dealt with by getting the order lifted -- consult your domestic attorney about this.

4. (Arizona law only) Anyone adjudicated a delinquent (the statute is not entirely clear here. I'll be griping from time to time about that. The Legislature has been adding to the firearms laws, and a lot of the additions are poorly written, so sometimes you can only guess at their meaning).

5. (Arizona law only) Anyone on parole or probation (the law's wording is unclear as to whether it means probation for anything or only for felonies and DV, but I'm told the background clearance people interpet it to mean on probation for anything, including some misdemeanor moving violations).

6. Anyone who has ever been committed on a psychiatric basis (the Arizona bar ends when court-ordered treatment does, but the Federal bar is lifetime).

7. Anyone given a dishonorable discharge from the military (only applies to the true dishonorable discharge, not any lesser forms of discharge).

8. Plus some other categories - people who have renounced US citizenship, illegal aliens, and even some legal aliens.

If you fall into some, and I emphasize some, of the above categories, it is possible to get your firearms rights restored. When Congress debated the Gun Control Act of 1968, everyone recognized that some folks convicted of offenses shouldn't be barred from owning a gun, because the offenses were nonviolent, or old, or the person had moved on to a new life. But no one could figure out how to write the law to exclude them. If you took out tax offenses, you'd have protected Al Capone, after all. In the end, Congress just forbade all convicted felons and other classes of people to own guns, but alowed anyone who thought they could prove they weren't likely to be violent to petition the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for "relief from disability" to own guns. BATF would investigate and, if the petitioner seemed unlikely to cause problems, would grant it.

Then Violence Policy Center, an antigun group, stirred up a media firestorm over "tax money is being spent to give felons the right to have guns." Congress has since put on budget riders forbidding BATF to give relief from disability. Fortunately, the 1986 amendments to the Gun Control Act (some of which I drafted while working in Washington) had added a provision allowing State courts to restore firearms rights after a conviction. So this approach is still open. Unfortunately, it doesn't help anyone who is barred from gun ownership by reason of something other than a conviction! You're barred, a court cannot give relief, and neither can BATFE. The same is true of a Federal conviction -- no way out, unless and until Congress changes the budget rider.

But assuming yours is a conviction in an Arizona state court:

First Step Determine if you need a restoration of rights.

Quirk in the law: the 1986 federal amendments provided that a State restoration of rights after a felony convicted acted to restore Federal rights to own a gun, unless the State law expressly provided otherwise. (I know -- I wrote that clause while working in Washington).

Arizona's rewrite of the criminal code in 1977 simply provided that, after a first conviction, civil rights were restored automatically at the end of probation. In 1988 the law was amended to provide that this did not apply to firearms rights -- you had to file a motion to get them restored. So if a conviction on a first offense was entered prior to 1988, rights were automatically restored and you probably don't need a motion. (The bill was signed on June 21, 1988 -- I haven't checked the effective date, which would have been after the legislative session ended that year). You might want a restoration anyway (1) to be sure and (2) I'm not sure that the background check computers know this detail of Arizona legal history.

Second Step The next step is to determine if you are eligible for a restoration after conviction.

Felony Offense

General rule: you cannot apply for restoration of firearms rights until two years after discharge from probation.

If the conviction was for a "dangerous offense" under 13-604, you cannot apply, ever. What is a "dangerous offense" under 13-604 is not entirely clear, because 13-604 is a sentencing enhancement provision and doesn't use the words "dangerous offense." It does use the term "dangerous nature of the felony" as being one "involving the discharge, use or threatening exhibition of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument or the intentional or knowing infliction of serious physical injury upon another." My best guess is that this is what was meant -- "dangerous offense" really means "something for which the sentence was enhanced because it was a 'dangerous felony.'"

If the conviction was for a "serious offense" under ARS 13-604, you cannot apply until ten years after discharge from probation. Serious offenses are:

Murder and manslaugter;

Aggravated assault resulting in serious physical injury or involving the discharge, use or threatening exhibition of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.

Sexual assault.

Any dangerous crime against children (these involve commission of various serious offenses against a victim under age 15).

Arson of an occupied structure.

Armed robbery.

Burglary in the first degree. (i.e., with a deadly weapon or instrument).


Sexual conduct with a minor under fifteen years of age.

If your conviction was in Arizona state court, and you've waited the required period of time, you can petition to have your firearm rights restored. (It helps if your probation officer thinks you've done well, since the judge will probably ask the probation officer's opinion).


Most misdemeanor convictions do not affect gun ownership. The one exception is for domestic violence convictions. To gain relief from a DV conviction requires that it be set aside by the court, which requires a motion. A conviction cannot be set aside if it involves the infliction of serious physical injury , the use or exhibition of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, the victim was under 15 years of age, and a few other restrictions. There is no time limit, other than that probation must be finished.

One thing to watch out for: the conviction cannot be set aside until probation is finished and all the terms of the sentence and of probation are fulfilled. If the sentence included, for example, ten hours of community service, make sure it was given AND that there is a paper in the court's file showing it was done. The court will check this out and deny the motion if anything is left undone. (Worse, if the probation period has already ended, the court might just rule that it's too late to do it now - you didn't fulfill the terms of probation, and are forever ineligible to get it set aside). So make sure that you fulfilled all requirements and check the court file to make sure you got it all the paperwork to show it. Fines should be paid off, if there was restitution it should have been handled, community service should be done, and the court's file should reflect it all. Here's the link to Pima County JP Court files online, but I'd recommend going down and checking the hard copy files if there is any doubt. You do not want to mess up here. Check the judgment and sentence and make sure there is paperwork to show every condition was met.

Note that setting aside the conviction doesn't really remove it from the court records. But it does make it look better on job applications, etc..

What I can do for you:

Misdemeanor: these are relatively simple. The easiest route is for me to draft the petition to set aside the conviction, for your signature and filing. This saves me the time required to file a formal appearance before the motion and a withdrawal after it, not to mention the travel to the courthouse from here. The charge for an uncomplicated motion is $600.

Felony: these can be considerably more complicated. I can appear on your behalf, file, serve the County Attorney, and (if the court desires) argue the motion, for $1,500, provided it's a Pima County case. If you'd want just to file it in your own name, I can prepare it for $900.

Delinquency: I haven't handled a Juvenile Court matter in 25 years, but I can refer you to people who know the field.