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Gun Rights Restoration

Restoration of Civil Rights to Firearms

Can you get your gun rights back in Minnesota?

Gun laws in Minnesota are a web of Minnesota state and federal statutes and court rulings. 

But information here should help those researching the laws.  It’s not legal advice.

Step one: Find the Cause of the Problem

Before understanding how to get your gun rights back, you need to understand what event caused the rights disability.

The two most common are: felony “crime of violence” and domestic violence conviction

But there are other, less common events.  And these include a civil commitment for mentally illness, a juvenile adjudication for a felony “crime of violence,” etc. (see, e.g.,  the list in Minn. Stat. 724.713). 

A person who has lost their civil rights to firearms can be criminally prosecuted. And, we discuss that here:  Defending persons charged as an ineligible person in possession of a firearm in Minnesota.  But preventing the problem is best.

What if you’ve already lost your civil rights; can you get them back?

This page focuses on restoring gun rights after a Minnesota felony conviction.  But here is a link to our in-depth article about:

How to restore civil rights to firearms after a Minnesota domestic assault conviction.


Step two: General Rule – Automatic Gun Rights Back After a Minnesota Felony

The general rule is that you automatically get your gun rights back after your Minnesota felony sentence expires.  And when your felony sentence expires, you are off-paper.  So this means discharge from jail or prison and from probation or supervised release.

But, for some Minnesota felonies there is a default lifetime ban.  More on that below.  But first, let’s look deeper at the general rule.

Anyone convicted of a felony loses their civil rights to firearms at least until discharge from the sentence or probation:

Minn. Stat. 724.713, Subd. 1 (10) “a person who:

(i) has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;”

The Minnesota general rule is automatic restoration of civil rights for persons with felony (and misdemeanor) convictions. 

After off-paper

Restoration is by operation of statute upon completion of sentence (discharge from sentence, probation, or supervised release). Minnesota Statutes §609.165, RESTORATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS; POSSESSION OF FIREARMS AND AMMUNITION:

“Subdivision 1. Restoration. When a person has been deprived of civil rights by reason of conviction of a crime and is thereafter discharged, such discharge shall restore the person to all civil rights and to full citizenship, with full right to vote and hold office, the same as if such conviction had not taken place.”

But note that the above conflicts with another statutory provision applicable to misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor drug crimes, apparently creating a conflicts-of-law issue:

“Subdivision 1 (4) a person who has been convicted in Minnesota or elsewhere of a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor violation of chapter 152, unless three years have elapsed since the date of conviction and, during that time, the person has not been convicted of any other such violation of chapter 152 or a similar law of another state; …”

2020, Minnesota Statutes §624.713, Subdivision 1 (4)

Step three: Exception to General Rule – Felony “Crimes of Violence”

But a felony “crime of violence” conviction triggers loss of gun rights forever, by default. 

Yet the exception to this exception is the right to petition the court for restoration; or seek a Pardon.  Therefore, to know how to get gun rights back, we need to know:

  1. Does the person have a felony conviction?  Is the sentence over (has probation ended)? 
  2. Was the felony conviction for a listed “crime of violence?”

The most common impairment to civil rights to firearms is based upon a conviction for a felony “crime of violence.” 

But beware: The term “crime of violence” as defined by the applicable Minnesota Statute (624.712, subd. 5) is misleading, since it includes crimes which are actually non-violent, for example, possession of marijuana.

So the statutorily-defined “crimes of violence” are a legal technicality, and fail to match common meaning.

Step four: Exception to the Exception – Court Order for Restoration of Civil Rights

Minnesota Statutes 609.165 “Restoration of civil rights; possession of firearms” provides:

Subd. 1a.  Certain convicted felons ineligible to possess firearms or ammunition. The order of discharge must provide that a person who has been convicted of a crime of violence, as defined in section 624.712, subdivision 5, is not entitled to … possess … a firearm or ammunition for the remainder of the person’s lifetime. Any person who has received such a discharge and … whose ability to possess firearms and ammunition has been restored under subdivision 1d, shall not be subject to the restrictions of this subdivision.

Subd. 1b. Violation and penalty. (a) Any person who has been convicted of a crime of violence, as defined in section 624.712, subdivision 5, and who … possesses … a firearm or ammunition, commits a felony and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 15 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $30,000, or both. …
(c) The criminal penalty in paragraph (a) does not apply to any person … whose ability to possess firearms and ammunition has been restored under subdivision 1d.

Subd. 1d. Judicial restoration of ability to possess firearms and ammunition by felon. A person prohibited by state law from … possessing, or receiving a firearm or ammunition because of a conviction or a delinquency adjudication for committing a crime of violence may petition a court to restore the person’s ability to posses … firearms and otherwise deal with firearms and ammunition.
The court may grant the relief sought if the person shows good cause to do so and the person has been released from physical confinement. …

Subd. 2. Discharge. The discharge may be:
(1) by order of the court following stay of sentence or stay of execution of sentence; or
(2) upon expiration of sentence.

FAQ: Expungement vs. Restoration of Civil Rights to Firearms

In Minnesota, the laws generally restore civil rights (e.g. voting, firearms) for those convicted of crimes upon discharge from sentence.

But in some cases Minnesota laws do not restore your gun civil rights after a conviction. 

Some assume that a court’s Expungement Order, if granted, would also restore lost civil rights to firearms.  But generally that is not the case.  For example, Minn. Stat. 609A.02.  Minnesota’s expungement statute, Section 609A.03 (2022), provides:

“Subd. 5a. Order concerning crimes of violence; firearms restriction. An order expunging the record of a conviction for a crime of violence as defined in section 624.712, subdivision 5, must provide that the person is not entitled to … possess … a firearm for the remainder of the person’s lifetime. Any person whose record of conviction is expunged under this section … whose ability to possess firearms has been restored under section 609.165, subdivision 1d, is not subject to the restriction in this subdivision.”

So that expungement statute explicitly states that an expungement order will not restore gun rights for persons subject to the lifetime ban for felony “crimes of violence;” but a court Order under Minn. Stat. § 609.165, subdivision 1d, will. For a deeper discussion of the interplay between Minnesota and federal law of, expungement and firearm civil rights, see our articles: 

Felony doesn’t always impair Minnesota gun rights, and

Civil Rights, Guns & Marijuana: Why Minnesota Expungement is Broken

Civil rights won by the gun
Civil rights: won by the gun

The quick take-away is that a typical Minnesota expungement won’t get your gun rights back.

Restoring Gun Rights after Felony Stay of Imposition?

A frequently asked question goes like this:  “I completed my felony probation on a Stay of Imposition. And they said the conviction reduces to a misdemeanor upon completion of probation.  Does this mean my gun rights are back?”

But to answer that, we must answer another first: “was the felony conviction for a felony ‘crime of violence?'”  If not, Minnesota law automatically restores gun rights upon discharge from probation. And this is true regardless of whether a stay of imposition.

But if a felony “crime of violence” conviction; then the person suffers a default lifetime loss of gun rights.   However, one exception to the lifetime ban is the legal right to petition the court for restoration.

Felony level charge, not sentence actually imposed by the judge

The following law confuses many, since it would appear to make a felony conviction a non-felony after completing probation — but it does not for purposes of gun rights.

Subdivision 1. Felony. Notwithstanding a conviction is for a felony: …
(2) the conviction is deemed to be for a misdemeanor if the imposition of the prison sentence is stayed, the defendant is placed on probation, and the defendant is thereafter discharged without a prison sentence.

However, the above does not change the more specific statute:

Minn. Stat. 724.713, Subd. 1 (10) “a person who:
(i) has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;”

A crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year is the definition of a Minnesota felony crime.  So what matters is a conviction “punishable by imprisonment … exceeding one year.”

And this does not change even though “deemed” a misdemeanor after a Stay of Imposition, due to Minnesota Statutes § 609.13, Subd. 1(2), quoted above.

That is why a Stay of Imposition on a felony conviction does not restore firearm civil rights for statutory “crimes of violence,” including the non-violent crimes on that list.

Stay of Imposition Redux

So, for purposes of getting gun rights back after a felony “crimes of violence” conviction, a stay of imposition makes no difference at all.

Practice tip:  The severity level of the charge or of the sentence imposed by the judge; can avoid the problem. So criminal defense lawyers like Thomas Gallagher who understand gun laws have another way to protect clients prior to any plea agreement or trial. 

The defense attorney can try to get a Gross Misdemeanor sentence instead of a Felony Stay of Imposition, at the time of sentencing.  And a gross does not trigger the felony “crimes of violence” gun rights disability.

Restoring Gun Rights After a Stay of Adjudication?

First, what is a stay of adjudication?  

It’s a term-of-art in criminal law.  And it refers to one type of disposition (outcome) of a criminal charge.

The word “stay” means to pause.  The word “adjudication” essentially means “conviction.”  So, a stay of adjudication is a criminal case on pause prior to conviction.

When court stays adjudication, the judge postpones adjudicating (convicting) the defendant. And this happens after a guilty plea with a sworn factual basis and waiver of rights. Or, it can happen after a trial and guilty verdict. But the judge pauses the proceedings just prior to adjudication, for a period of time, with conditions for the defendant.

Though a judge can order a stay of adjudication over the protest of a prosecutor, that’s rare.  (Statutory stays of adjudication under Minnesota Statutes § 152.18 are an exception.)


A stay of adjudication is conditional.  So the defendant who agrees to this disposition must comply with the conditions the judge orders.  But if the defendant violates a condition; the judge then accepts defendant’s pending guilty plea.  And this results in adjudication or conviction.

But if the defendant completes the stay of adjudication successfully, by not violating a condition; the court dismisses the charge.  And no conviction results.

Because there is no conviction, the dismissal of charges restores gun rights.


A pending felony charge temporarily strips firearm civil rights

Yes, because a pending felony charge generally causes a temporary loss of gun rights, via conditions of pretrial release, statute, or conditions of a stayed disposition.  A person has a pending felony charge until the court discharges them from the stay of adjudication, or otherwise dismisses the charge.

So, a successful completion of a stay of adjudication ultimately restores gun rights, after the charge is ultimately dismissed without conviction.

Juvenile Certified as an Adult

Some lose their civil rights to firearms based on a conviction, after being a juvenile certified as an adult.

Minnesota Statutes Section 242.31, RESTORATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS; POSSESSION OF FIREARMS, provides for:

  • the automatic restoration general rule for felonies,
  • the exception for felony “crimes of violence,” and
  • the exception to the exception rights restoration court order – similar to other adult felonies. 
A judge can Order your gun rights back
A Judge can Order gun rights back

Civil Commitment and Civil Rights

A civil commitment as mentally ill, developmentally disabled, mentally ill and dangerous, or chemically dependent; destroys a person’s civil rights to firearms.  But that person can petition the court for their restoration.

Minnesota Statutes Section 624.713, CERTAIN PERSONS NOT TO POSSESS FIREARMS:

Subd. 4.  Restoration of firearms and ammunition eligibility to civilly committed person; petition authorized. (a) A person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition under subdivision 1, due to commitment resulting from a judicial determination that the person is mentally ill, developmentally disabled, mentally ill and dangerous, or chemically dependent, may petition a court to restore the person’s ability to possess a firearm or ammunition.

(b) The court may grant the relief sought in paragraph (a) in accordance with the principles of due process if the circumstances regarding the person’s disqualifying condition and the person’s record and reputation are determined to be such that:(1) the person is not likely to act in a manner that is dangerous to public safety; and
(2) the granting of relief would not be contrary to the public interest.

(c) When determining whether a person has met the requirement of paragraph (b), clause (1), the court may consider evidence from a licensed medical doctor or clinical psychologist that the person is no longer suffering from the disease or condition that caused the disability or that the disease or condition has been successfully treated for a period of three consecutive years.

Other ways to lose and get your gun rights back

Other Minnesota laws, and federal laws, can create a loss of civil rights to firearms for reasons apart from a criminal charge or conviction.  And one example is the temporary loss of civil rights during a civil Order for Protection.  OFPs typically last two years.  But after they expire, you get your gun rights back automatically. (But keep in mind that a criminal conviction for Violation of an Order for Protection can trigger a three year or longer ban under Minn. Stat. §518B.01, subd.14(j), (k).)

Gallagher no longer accepts gun rights restoration cases

Due to caseload, Attorney Thomas Gallagher is no longer accepting cases to Petition for the Restoration of Civil Rights to Firearms. He can still provide help with a Pardon application, another way to restore gun rights after a Minnesota state criminal conviction.

A person facing pending criminal charges has an opportunity to prevent to loss of civil rights in the first place. And Attorney Thomas Gallagher is not only expert criminal defense counsel; he is also a recognized expert on gun laws and rights in the criminal law context.

Minnesota Courts Forms and Information

Now that you understand the above, take a look at the Minnesota Courts website. It has some helpful information and forms on Petitioning for a Court Order restoring civil rights to firearms: Minnesota Courts Forms on Firearms topic.

Gun Crimes Defense Attorney

Ineligible Person in Possession of a Firearm

Gallagher Criminal Defense logo 200

What is firearm possession?

Gun With No Serial Number (privately made firearm, not “ghost gun”)

Restoration of civil rights to firearms (this page)

Minnesota Carry Permit Law

Carrying under the influence

Minnesota Criminal Lawyer Thomas Gallagher is a recognized legal expert in Minnesota gun laws.

Attorney Thomas Gallagher taught many Continuing Legal Education courses to judges and other lawyers over the years.

Gallagher Criminal Defense Blog 600 Minneapolis Cherry Spoon
Gallagher Criminal Defense Blog

And here are Attorney Thomas Gallagher’s in-depth articles about:

Felony doesn’t always impair Minnesota gun rights

Minnesota gun rights as well as


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