As many people learn, a conviction for ANY felony, even something as minor as the possession of a trace amount of a controlled substance, can deny a person the right to possess a firearm for the rest of their life. It can also expose them to a further felony and prison for the simple possession of a firearm in the future. Because of this, many people are eager to have the firearm rights, and with it their hunting and self-defense abilities restored as soon as possible. When they do so, they are presented with the question of whether or not to petition for relief from the firearm prohibition pursuant to ORS 166.274 versus expunging the charges pursuant to ORS 137.225. In looking at the two methods, it is clear that one should only attempt to obtain relief from the firearm prohibition pursuant to ORS 166.274 if they are not eligible to expunge their felony conviction(s) in the near future. Expungement is the better way for the following reasons:
First and most obviously, relief from the firearm prohibition only gives you your firearm rights back while expungement has the added benefit of clearing the conviction(s) off your record. Thus, not only does it expungement restore your right to hunt, target shoot and protect yourself and your home, but it also removes a roadblock to housing and employment in the future.
Second, expungement is much easier to obtain. In most cases, the Courts have little discretion to deny an expungement motion if you are statutorily eligible. That is not the case when seeking relief from the firearm prohibition via ORS 166.274. Under that statutory scheme, the burden is on YOU, to prove by clear and convincing evidence that you don’t present a danger to yourself of the community. Even though that may be true, few judges are willing to put their name on an Order giving gun rights back to someone convicted of a felony unless they HAVE TO. That is what they are generally required to do under the expungement statute. In addition, the process to petition the Courts for relief is much more exhaustive, expensive and time consuming, all with less chance of success.
Third, expungement is a traditionally accepted means of restoring firearm rights under Federal Law while the status of relief from the firearm prohibition pursuant to ORS 166.274 under Federal Law is less clear.
In conclusion, the only time where one should seek relief from the firearm prohibition pursuant to ORS 166.274 is when a person is not eligible for expungement and won’t be in the near future. These situations can be when the person has a conviction for an A felony, a non-expungeable B felony, a traffic crime felony, or they can’t wait until they are eligible for expungement. Just know, when ask a Judge to restore your firearm rights, you are facing an uphill struggle.
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