Blog
23 October 2019

By George L. Lyon, Jr, Esq.

 

Although, the Second Amendment guarantees the right of the people to keep and bear arms, that right is not absolute. A person can lose his or her firearm rights in a number of ways. These include conviction of a felony, an involuntary commitment to a mental hospital, conviction for a domestic violence offense, or being subject to a domestic abuse restraining order. There are a number of other prohibited categories not pertinent to this discussion.

If you have been convicted of a felony by a Virginia state court or subject to an involuntary commitment to a mental health facility in Virginia, there are procedures whereby we can help you obtain your firearms rights back. We need to emphasize, however, that if you have been convicted of a felony in federal court, these procedures will not work for restoring your firearm rights. At this time only a presidential pardon can do that. Additionally, these procedures will not work for a domestic abuse conviction.


If your conviction resulted from a plea agreement, in which you pled guilty to a lesser offence in exchange for a lighter sentence, you might not have realized that you lost your Second Amendment rights as part of your plea deal. If your facing criminal charges, it’s important to be represented by competent legal counsel who is also sensitive to your wish to preserve your rights.

 

Restoring Rights from a Virginia State Felony Conviction


In Virginia, anyone convicted of a felony will lose his or her firearm rights. However, Virginia law allows restoration of firearm rights following a felony conviction. It is a two-step procedure. The first step, following service of the sentence and any period of probation, is to seek restoration of civil rights from the Governor. This can be accomplished via the Virginia Secretary of the Commonwealth’s web site. The applicant will be sent an executive order from the Governor restoring his or her civil rights, except for the right to possess and ship firearms. The applicant will then need to petition the Circuit Court in the county or city where he or she lives to restore his firearms rights. Arsenal Attorneys™ can assist you with this process.


We will ask to obtain records relating to your conviction and other documents supporting your rehabilitation to include in the petition, including your employment history, community involvement, and letters of recommendation from persons in the community. We then submit the petition to the court and to the local Commonwealth’s Attorneys office. Often the Commonwealth’s Attorney will agree to the proposed order to restore gun rights. If not, the Court will schedule a hearing to decide whether to grant the petition.

 

Restoring Rights from an Involuntary Mental Health Commitment


The procedure for restoration of rights from a mental health commitment is slightly different. A petition is filed with the District Court where the petitioner resides rather than the Circuit Court, and it is served on the Commonwealth’s Attorney. The Court will schedule a hearing on the petition.


The petition for restoration from a mental health commitment contains similar information as a petition for restoration from a felony conviction. But rather than providing information concerning a conviction, the petition includes information concerning the original commitment, including, if possible, notes from the treating facility. We also strongly suggest including a current evaluation from a mental health profession, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. We have doctors who are knowledgeable of gun issues to whom we refer our clients. We also recommend including other documents such as employment history, driving record, and letters of recommendation.


If you have been previously convicted of a felony in a Virginia court or involuntarily committed in Virginia and would like to explore restoration of your firearm rights, we offer a complimentary consultation to explore whether you are a good candidate to apply for restoration of your firearms rights. Please contact Arsenal Attorneys to learn how we can help you restore your rights.

Arsenal Attorneys’ George Lyon is licensed to practice law in Virginia and the District of Columbia. He was one of the plaintiffs in the Palmer v. District of Columbia case that forced DC to begin issuing concealed carry licenses and in the Heller case that legalized handguns in Washington, DC. Mr. Lyon is licensed by the Metropolitan Police Department to teach the DC concealed carry course including the renewal course and conducts the course monthly. His next class is November 16 in Arlington, Virginia. To sign up for his course, contact Mr. Lyon at gll[at]arsenalattorneys.com or at 703-291-3312.

This blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship.

23 October 2019

By George L. Lyon, Jr, Esq.

Arsenal Attorneys frequently advises clients in the concealed carry of firearms, including licenses to carry in the District of Columbia by residents and nonresidents alike. After helping win the battle for these rights, I now help clients renew their carry licenses. This blog provides a summary of the license renewal procedure. But first, some history.


Two years ago, on September 28, 2017, the Federal DC Circuit Court of Appeals declined to overturn the ruling of its three-judge panel in Wrenn v. District of Columbia finding DC’s ‘may issue’ concealed carry licensing scheme unconstitutional. Since that time, DC has been a ‘shall issue’ concealed carry jurisdiction.


As a result of the court’s ruling, DC concealed carry licenses have increased from 123 in September 2017 to 3,339 as of the end of August 2019. Despite DC’s lamentations that shall issue conceal carry would threaten public safety, the record shows that DC’s concealed carry license holders have been exceedingly law abiding. Since June of 2014, when the courts first forced DC to issue concealed carry licenses, only two concealed carry licenses have been revoked for criminal violations and these were not for violent crimes, but rather for violation of one of DC’s myriad, complex weapons offenses, e.g., possessing a firearm in DC the license holder had not registered.


Nor have DC concealed license holders set off gun fights in the street. There has been just one reported shooting by a DC concealed carry license holder. It occurred when the license holder fired in self-defense when attacked by two would be robbers. No charges were filed against the licensed carrier.


Given that DC requires its concealed carry licenses to be renewed every two years and that quite a few people applied for carry licenses soon after DC went shall issue in September of 2017, we thought we would review the procedure for renewing DC carry licenses. The good news is that unlike the rather complex and time-consuming process for receiving the initial carry license, the renewal process has been greatly streamlined.


Although the initial mandatory training for the DC carry license is 16 hours of classroom instruction and two hours of range training, the renewal training requirement is just four hours of classroom training plus a two-hour range session. The renewal training requirement is mandatory and not waivable. A DC-licensed firearm instructor will provide you a certificate documenting proof of your training which you must submit with your renewal application. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has a portal on its website allowing you to pay the $75 fee and submit the renewal application and training certificate online. It can be accessed at this link. If your renewal is submitted online, your renewed license will be mailed to you in about a week.


Be advised that for reasons unknown the portal is sometimes unreliable. Alternatively, you may submit the application and training certificate at MPD’s firearm registration office at 300 Indiana Avenue to submit your application, training certificate, and $75 renewal fee. When submitting in person, your renewed license will be issued to you after about an hour’s wait.


Remember, a carry license holder may only carry a firearm that has been registered in DC. There is no requirement to re-register the guns that you carry. In a later blog, we will explain which firearms are legal to possess and register in Washington.

 

Arsenal Attorneys’ George Lyon is licensed to practice law in Virginia and the District of Columbia. He was one of the plaintiffs in the Palmer v. District of Columbia case that forced DC to begin issuing concealed carry licenses and in the Heller case that legalized handguns in Washington, DC. Mr. Lyon is licensed by the Metropolitan Police Department to teach the DC concealed carry course including the renewal course and conducts the course monthly. His next class is November 16 in Arlington, Virginia. To sign up for his course, contact Mr. Lyon at gll[at]arsenalattorneys.com or at 703-291-3312.

This blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship.

29 January 2019

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By George L. Lyon, Jr, Esq.

 

Arsenal Attorneys is closely monitoring developments at the United States Supreme Court, which recently agreed to review a case some are already celebrating as a seminal 2nd Amendment decision in the making. However, this case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, Inc. v. City of New York, NY, might not have as broad and immediate an impact as many have predicted.


This case is highly anticipated because it would be the next logical step in a long, gradual process to recognize the liberties guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment, and thereby lead to the reversal of presumably unconstitutional gun control laws in states like California, New York, Maryland, etc.


Second Amendment jurisprudence has been the late bloomer of US constitutional law. Since its creation in 1789, the Supreme Court did not issue significant 2nd Amendment opinions until the last dozen years. In the McDonald v. Chicago decision in 2010, the Supreme Court explicitly stated that the Second Amendment’s right to keep and hear arms was a fundamental right applicable to the states via the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. The Court thus applied nationwide its 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment includes the right to possess a functional firearm, including a handgun, in the home. Since that time, other than a summary reversal of a Massachusetts case upholding a ban on possession of stun guns as inconsistent with the Heller decision, the Supreme Court has not heard a gun rights case.

During this time, lower federal courts have upheld a variety of gun related legislation, including restrictions on the issuance of permits to carry handguns outside the home, magazine limits, and limits on so-called assault weapons. Until last week, the Supreme Court has declined to review these lower court decisions giving short shrift to the Second Amendment. Justice Thomas, dissenting from the Court’s refusal to hear one case, suggested the Court was treating the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms as a disfavored right.

 

It may very well take another case to make it clear to the lower courts

that Second Amendment rights are not second-class rights.


Last week, however, the Court accepted for full argument the aforementioned case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, Inc. v. City of New York, NY. It involves a challenge to a New York City ordinance which restricts the right of city residents having pistol premises permits to take their guns out of their city homes. The New York ordinance only allows premises pistol licensees to take their guns to one of seven New York City gun ranges. Residents cannot take their handguns to a second home or a gun range outside the city. No other jurisdiction in the country has such a restrictive law.


The mainstream media, noting the presence of Justice Brett Kavanaugh replacing the more moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy, has been quick to suggest that the Court may now be ready to dismantle various gun control provisions, such as ‘may issue’ concealed carry laws and assault weapons bans.
Nothing would make us happier at Arsenal Attorneys than a far-reaching, strongly worded decision striking down the nonsensical New York City law and setting a rigorous test for evaluating restrictions nationwide on firearms and other self-defense tools. We predict, however, a more modest result. While we believe the New York City law is doomed, the Court may very well decide the case on narrow grounds. Supreme Court doctrine holds that courts should avoid deciding a Constitutional issue if the Court can decide a case on statutory grounds. Such a statutory ground exists for the Court to decide this case. A portion of the Gun Control Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 926A, states as follows:


Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.


The New York City ordinance would appear in direct conflict with Section 926A. As such, the Supreme Court could very well throw out the provision on this statutory basis and avoid deciding the case on Second Amendment grounds. Such a result might very well obtain the support of the Court’s more liberal Justices, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, with a resulting 9-0 decision invalidating the law. Likely, one or more of the Court’s more conservative Justices, Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh might pen a concurrence decrying the lack of respect shown the Second Amendment by the bulk of the lower Federal courts. Otherwise, Chief Justice Roberts may be the deciding vote whether to take a narrow or expansive path in invalidating the New York City law.


It may very well take another case to make it clear to the lower courts that Second Amendment rights are not second-class rights. A gun carry case could serve this purpose well, such as Rogers v. Grewal from New Jersey and now at the Supreme Court awaiting a decision whether it will be heard by the Supreme Court. The attorney generals of 23 states just asked the Court to review this case. For now, the Supreme Court’s taking New York Rifle and Pistol Association is clearly a good start, but it is likely just another gradual step in ensuring that the lower courts respect the Second Amendment.

 

Arsenal Attorneys’ George Lyon is licensed to practice law in Virginia and the District of Columbia. He was one of the plaintiffs in the Palmer v. District of Columbia case that forced DC to begin issuing concealed carry licenses and in the Heller case that legalized handguns in Washington, DC. Mr. Lyon is licensed by the Metropolitan Police Department to teach the DC concealed carry course and conducts the course monthly. His next class is scheduled for February 23-24 in Arlington, Virginia. To sign up for his course, contact Mr. Lyon at gll[at]arsenalattorneys.com or at 703-291-3312. Arsenal Attorneys is looking for persons who have obtained their DC concealed carry licenses and who would be willing to participate in a civil rights case relating to DC’s myriad of concealed carry restrictions. Contact Mr. Lyon if you have an interest in learning more.

10 December 2018


As gun lawyers, Arsenal Attorneys™ advise clients in the implications of keeping and bearing arms. We draw (no pun intended) on our collective in-house experience as lawyers, firearms instructors, range safety officers, and firearms dealers—a holistic approach, if you will. Regardless of how we look at it, backpacks and guns just don’t mix. From a legal standpoint, or tactically speaking, once you separate a gun from your person, you run the risk of making it inaccessible or worse, forgetting it altogether. Thus, your gun might not be where you need it, or you might take it where it is forbidden.


In self-defense law classes, we stress to students the need to carry their guns. Venable firearms instructor Tom Givens has taught many thousands of students over his 35 plus years as an instructor. Givens reports that 66 of his students have been involved in gun fights. Sixty survived with no injuries. Three were injured. Three were killed. Of this sample population, Givens confirmed the fatalities occurred when those three of his students found themselves unarmed in the face of danger.
When left without a practical method to carry a firearm on their person, many people choose to carry off their bodies. This is especially common with women who tend to wear clothes that are form-fitting and lack layers to conceal a sidearm. A purse becomes the most readily available option. Some people find a firearm too uncomfortable to carry and opt for off body carry in a fanny pack or backpack. Still others need to transport a firearm, and rather than going ‘strapped’, they carry their gun in a bag.
Off body carry, particularly with a backpack, however, carries both tactical and legal risks.


Lack of quick access to the firearm poses practical and liability problems. The need for a firearm is likely to arise rapidly. If a concealed carrier has the time to take the backpack off, open it up, find the gun amid everything else in the backpack, and pull out the gun, there is a good chance he has the opportunity to retreat and avoid using deadly force altogether. A safe retreat, if available, is almost always going to be a person’s best option both tactically and legally. After all, avoiding the gun fight could mean you don’t get shot, don’t get sued by the person you shot or his family, and don’t get arrested. Alternatively, if there is no time to draw the gun from a bag, then it is like having no gun at all.


We always emphasize situational awareness, and a frequent legal problem involving guns and bags reflects the total opposite mindset: forgetfulness. In numerous cases, we have represented well-intentioned clients whose guns forgotten in bags or briefcases are discovered by security guards at the entrances of ‘gun-free zones’, especially during x-ray screening at government facilities and airports. Incidentally, the number of arrests at the airport for unlawful possession of guns or ammunition has dramatically increased, not necessarily because of an increased number of guns discovered, but because of more aggressive prosecution of these cases.


Every case in which we have been contacted by a potential client arrested for gun possession in a security checkpoint had forgotten that gun in a backpack. There are obviously serious consequences even to inadvertently entering a secured area with a firearm. In the District of Columbia, the government can charge the felony of carrying a handgun without a license, possession of an unregistered firearm, and possession of unregistered ammunition, the latter two charges being misdemeanors having potential jail terms of one year. Assuming the individual has a license to carry in the District of Columbia, that license very well could end up revoked and the carrier charged with a misdemeanor for violating carry restrictions. That offense comes with a potential jail term of 180 days.


At Virginia airports, the charge could be carrying a dangerous weapon into an air terminal, a Class One misdemeanor, carrying a potential jail term of one year and/or a fine of up to $2,500. On top of that, TSA is likely to impose an administrative fine on the offender.


There are similar statutes covering courthouses and schools in Virginia.

In almost all cases involving persons with a clean record and no aggravating circumstances, it could be possible to negotiate a disposition that avoids jail time. However, if a person convicted of a crime could have been subject to imprisonment of more than a year, whether a misdemeanor or a felony, and regardless of whether they had been imprisoned at all, such a person would become a ‘prohibited person’ and therefore lose the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
Our best advice, to ensure your personal safety and to reduce your legal risks, don’t carry a gun in a backpack.

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