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The “Exception to the Exception” on Gun Rights


Under federal law, it is illegal for any person convicted of a felony to possess any firearm that has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.1 The term "firearm" includes a hunting rifle.2  There is, however, an exception to the federal prohibition. Under 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20), if the offender's "civil rights" have been "restored," then he or she can possess a firearm without subjecting himself or herself to federal prosecution "unless such . . . restoration . . . expressly provides that the person may not . . . possess . . . firearms." The last clause of the provision is referred to as the "unless clause"; it is an "exception to the exception."

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