Can I Restore My Gun Rights in Georgia?

Restoring gun rights in Georgia is a critical concern for many individuals who have lost this ability due to past criminal convictions. The process involves understanding and navigating several legal provisions, including:

  • Retroactive First Offender
  • Pardon with Firearms Rights Restoration

This article outlines the steps and criteria for restoring gun rights in Georgia.

Understanding the Loss of Gun Rights

In Georgia, certain criminal convictions result in the loss of gun rights. These include:

  1. Felony Convictions: Individuals convicted of felony offenses generally lose their right to possess firearms.
  2. Domestic Violence Convictions: Misdemeanor domestic violence convictions also result in the loss of gun rights under federal law.

Restoring Gun Rights Through Retroactive First Offender

Under OCGA § 42-8-66, individuals who were not originally sentenced under the First Offender Act may petition the court for retroactive first offender status. This provision allows for the application of the First Offender Act after the fact, potentially sealing the record and aiding in the restoration of gun rights. I tell clients that it is like getting in a time machine to go back to when you were convicted to nullify the conviction. A successful application of retroactive First Offender will restore firearms rights.

Eligibility for Retroactive First Offender Status:

  1. No Prior First Offender Sentence: You must not have been previously sentenced under the First Offender Act.
  2. Eligible Offense: Most felonies qualify for First Offender treatment. There are, however, several categories of crimes do not qualify for First Offender.
    • Serious violent felonies
    • Serious sexual crimes
    • Offenses against minors
    • Drug Trafficking
    • Sex crimes involving children
  3. Successful Completion of Sentence: You must have completed your sentence without any subsequent criminal convictions or serious probation violations.

Process for Retroactive First Offender Status:

  1. Petition the Prosecuting Attorney: File a petition with the prosecuting attorney where you were convicted, requesting retroactive first offender treatment.
  2. Petition the Court: If the prosecuting attorney approves, file a petition with the Court.
  3. Court Hearing: A judge will review your petition and may hold a hearing. If granted, the record of your conviction can be sealed, which is a crucial step in the restoration of your gun rights.

Benefits of Retroactive First Offender Status:

Similar to Records Restriction under OCGA § 35-3-37, Retroactive First Offender status allows individuals to restrict access to certain criminal records. This means that the record is no longer publicly accessible, although it remains available to law enforcement and judicial officials pursuing a criminal justice investigation. By sealing the record, individuals can restore their gun rights and improve their chances of moving forward without the burden of a criminal conviction.

Restoring Gun Rights Through the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles

The primary route for restoring gun rights in Georgia is through a pardon from the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. A pardon is an official statement of forgiveness that can restore civil and political rights, including the right to possess a firearm.

Eligibility for a Pardon:

  1. Completion of Sentence: You must have completed all aspects of your sentence, including probation or parole, at least five years before applying.
  2. No Subsequent Criminal Activity: Demonstrating good conduct and no criminal activity since completing your sentence is essential.
  3. Rehabilitation Evidence: Providing evidence of rehabilitation and positive contributions to society strengthens your application.

Process for Obtaining a Pardon:

  1. Apply to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles: Submit an application with personal information, details of your conviction, and evidence of rehabilitation. The application can be found on the Board’s official website.
  2. Investigation and Review: The Board will conduct a thorough investigation, including reviewing your criminal history, checking references, and possibly interviewing you.
  3. Decision: The Board will decide whether to grant a pardon. If granted, the pardon may include the restoration of your gun rights, although you must specifically request this in your application.

Federal Gun Rights

It’s important to note that restoring gun rights at the state level does not automatically restore them at the federal level. Federal law imposes additional restrictions, particularly concerning domestic violence convictions. Consulting with a legal professional can help navigate the complexities of federal and state law.

Additional Considerations

Restoration of Civil and Political Rights: Before seeking the restoration of gun rights, ensure that your civil and political rights have been restored. This process is also managed by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles and is a prerequisite for the restoration of gun rights.

Legal Guidance: Given the complexities involved in restoring gun rights, seeking legal counsel can provide valuable guidance. A legal professional can help prepare your application, gather supporting documents, and represent your interests throughout the process.


Restoring gun rights in Georgia is a multifaceted process that primarily involves obtaining a pardon from the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. By meeting the eligibility criteria, demonstrating rehabilitation, and following the appropriate legal steps, individuals can work towards regaining their right to possess firearms. Legal counsel can be instrumental in navigating this process and ensuring that all necessary requirements are met.