Under Oregon law, you can restore your firearm rights in one of three (3) ways.
By far, the easiest method is Expungement, which means removing the underlying criminal conviction (a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor) from your record.
But sometimes, expungement is not available. The next simplest way is felony reduction, which involves filing a motion to reduce your felony (which triggers a loss of gun rights) to a simple misdemeanor (which does not trigger a loss of gun rights).
In many cases, however, neither option is available. This is usually based on the length and nature of your criminal record.
If this is the case, you can restore your right to possess firearms in Oregon by filing a written motion with the appropriate court, which then can—but does not have to—sign an order restoring your firearm rights.
Before going to court, you must also provide the prosecuting attorney's office and local law enforcement agency with a copy of your motion
ORS 166.274 is the statute in Oregon that deals with restoring your firearm rights through a formal motion. Let's learn more about this procedure.
What court do I file my motion?
Under the statute, you must file your petition to restore your firearm rights in the circuit court in your county of residence.
In other words, you must live in Oregon to file a motion to restore your gun rights under ORS 166.274.
Example #1: You were convicted of a felony in Multinomah County when you were a student at the University of Portland. You now live in Corvallis. You would file your motion in Benton County Circuit Court.
Example #2: You were convicted of a domestic violence offense when you were living in Beaverton but you recently moved across the border to Vancouver. You cannot file a motion to restore your firearm rights because you are no longer an Oregon resident.
How long do I have to wait before I can file my petition?
You have to wait at least one (1) year before you are eligible to file a motion to restore your firearm rights. The 1-year clock begins once you complete your felony sentence.
As defined in ORS
Under ORS 10.030, your “felony sentence” includes not only incarceration but also post-prison supervision, parole, or probation.
Example: You are convicted of robbery in the third degree in Washington County Circuit Court in 2012. You served 5 years in prison (released in 2017) and then spent 2 years on supervised probation (finishing in April 2019). In March 2020, you file a petition for restoration in Multnomah County Circuit Court, because you are now living in Portland. The Court will deny your petition because you are still within one (1) year of serving your felony sentence.
I don't live in Oregon. Can I restore my firearm rights in Oregon?
You cannot file a motion to restore your gun rights under Oregon law if you are not an Oregon resident (see above example).
But you can also get your gun rights back—in certain cases—by successfully filing a motion to reduce your felony conviction to a misdemeanor conviction. You also may—depending on your criminal record—be able to expunge (i.e. set aside or eliminate) the conviction that resulted in your loss of gun rights.
To get your gun rights back using the “expungement” or “felony reduction” methods, you do not need to live in Oregon.
How much does it cost to file a motion?
The standard filing fee in most Oregon counties for filing a firearm restoration motion is $281.
You will also have to pay additional costs to serve the motion on the prosecutor's office and the local police department or sheriff's office.
Do I have to clear my criminal record to restore my gun rights?
You are eligible to restore your firearm rights in Oregon even if you have criminal convictions on your record that cannot be expunged or removed. This is true even if you have certain kinds of felony convictions on your record.
Will the court restore my firearm rights?
This is, of course, the million-dollar question. Here is the legal standard that an Oregon judge will apply.
Under the law, you have to prove that you do not pose a threat to the safety of the public or to yourself. The burden of proof is “clear and convincing evidence.”
This is a higher burden proof that “preponderance of the evidence” (i.e. more likely than not or over 50 percent), which applies in most civil cases, such as a family law case or a breach of contract action. But this is a lower burden than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which applies in criminal cases.
The law doesn't put a percentage number on burden of proofs, but here is a useful but by no means exact science:
- Preponderance of the evidence = 50.01 percent or higher
- Beyond a reasonable doubt = Roughly 95 to 100 percent
- Clear and convincing evidence: Roughly between 65 and 80 percent.
There is no set formula for a judge to follow in deciding these motions. For instance, you will win if you bring piece of evidence X to court or have Person A testify on your behalf or you have less than X number of criminal convictions on your record and all of them were X number of years ago.
Whether the court grants your motion depends on several factors, including:
- Your personal circumstances
- Your conduct since you were last convicted of felony charges
- Letters of recommendations from friends or family
- Whether you have taken and successfully completed firearms safety courses
- Whether the prosecutor's office or the police department is objecting to your motion
There are, however, a few circumstances in which you can never restore your gun rights, regardless of the facts of your case and your conduct. They include, for example, convictions for felonies involving the use of a firearm or deadly weapon.
Do I have to go to court?
As discussed, the prosecuting attorney's office and local law enforcement have the right to object to your petition to restore your gun rights. In some cases, however, based on your lack of record, both groups will agree to restoration. This makes it far more likely--but certainly not a guarantee--that the judge will grant your motion, because the Court is the ultimate decision maker.
How long will the Court take to decide my motion?
By law, an Oregon judge must preside over and decide your motion within 15 and 30 days of the date you filed your motion, barring extenuating circumstances.
The court denied my motion. Can I appeal?
If your motion is denied, the Court will send a copy of the order to the Oregon Department of State Police, which will then record the denial in your criminal history database.
You then have the right to appeal the denial of your gun rights restoration motion to the Oregon Court of Appeals. You must file a notice of appeal within 30 days.
The court denied my motion. Can I reapply?
Yes, but you have to wait.
Under ORS 166.274, you can apply to restore your firearm rights “once per calendar year.” This does not necessarily mean that you have to wait an entire year before reapplying.
Example #1: You applied to restore your firearm rights in Lane County Circuit Court in October 2020. The court held a hearing in November 2020 and denied your motion. You can file a second motion in January 2021, even though only a couple months have elapsed.
Example #2: You applied to restore your gun rights in Washington County Circuit Court on January 3, 2021. The court denied your motion following a hearing on January 25, 2021. You cannot apply until January 2022, almost a full year away.
The court granted my motion. Can the State appeal?
Like you, the State can also appeal. The State also has 30 days to appeal the trial court's order restoring your firearm rights.
If the State appeals, do I still have the right to possess firearms?
An appeal does not erase the fact that the trial judge ruled in your favor and reinstated your gun rights.
Vice versa. If you appeal a denial order, you do not get your firearm rights back unless and until you win your appeal.
What happens when my firearm rights are restored?
First, the Court will forward a copy of the firearm restoration order and a copy of your fingerprint card to the Department of State Police for entry into DPS's computerized criminal history file.
Once an Oregon court restores your firearm rights, you have the right to possess a firearm under Oregon law. This means, at a minimum, that you cannot be prosecuted for unlawful gun possession under Oregon law.
- Specifically, you regain the following rights:
- The right to own, carry, and operate a firearm
- You are eligible for a concealed handgun license (CHL)
- The right to go hunting with a firearm for sport
- The right to go shooting for target practice
Restoring your Oregon state gun rights does not the same thing as restoring your federal gun rights. To be able to lawfully purchase a firearm from a licensed federal dealer, you have to be able to successfully pass an FBI background check.
In some cases, successfully filing a motion to restore your gun rights in Oregon will result in the restoration of your federal rights--this is usually the case when your criminal history is limited to Oregon. But if your criminal record spans more than one state, the answer is not so clear cut.