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Firearm Transfers, Firearm Purchases, and Expungements: What Happened in 2024?

Firearm Transfers, Firearm Purchases, and Expungements: What Happened in 2024?

In the last few months, Oregonians with expunged records attempted to purchase firearms and unexpectedly received a denial during the background check. Some of these Oregonians have purchased firearms in the last few years, and some have valid concealed carry permits. However, they are suddenly denied a firearm purchase. As a result, these individuals are contacting gun rights attorneys, including the attorneys that assisted with their original expungements, asking, “What changed? My record is expunged, why can’t I buy a gun?” 

In short, the Oregon Department of Justice changed the rules regarding eligibility to purchase firearms. The Oregon DOJ claims that a motion to set aside a conviction does not restore a person’s right to purchase a firearm. The post below describes (1) what prevents a person from purchasing a firearm, (2) why the interpretation of the statute changed, and (3) what Oregonians in this situation can do to purchase firearms again.

  • What prevents a person from purchasing a firearm?

Under Oregon law (ORS 166.250, 166.255, 166.270) and under United States law (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)), some individuals are not permitted to possess or purchase firearms. Generally, individuals who were convicted of a felony,* convicted of a qualifying misdemeanor of domestic violence, or were found guilty except for insanity of either of those two options, were prohibited by both state and federal law from possessing or purchasing firearms. So long as those convictions were on their criminal records, that person could not legally possess a firearm. 

For many years, the statute which authorized a person to set aside their criminal conviction record under ORS 137.225 was interpreted to also restore that person’s right to possess a firearm. That restoration was because the statute would make the record of arrest, the records of the charge, and the record of the proceeding and conviction “deemed not to have occurred, and the person may answer accordingly any questions relating to its occurrence.” ORS 137.225(4). Furthermore, the Oregon statutes (ORS 166.250, 166.255, and 166.270) expressly state a person whose record has been expunged under state “expunction laws” are not prohibited from possessing a firearm

For many years, the Oregon State Police recognized that when a court set aside the record of conviction for a felony or misdemeanor of domestic violence, a person’s right to possess a firearm was also restored because the person no longer had a disqualifying conviction. That is why so many people would be able to purchase a firearm and receive a concealed carry permit after a motion to set aside was granted.

  • Why did the Oregon Department of Justice change the interpretation of the statute?

In 2024, the Attorney General for the State of Oregon as head of the Oregon Department of Justice has unilaterally, and without legislative change to the statute, modified how ORS 137.225 is interpreted regarding the restoration of a person’s gun rights. The Oregon DOJ then instructed the Oregon State Police to report any person who has had a disqualifying conviction set aside under ORS 137.225 to the FBI, stating that that the person is still prohibited from purchasing a firearm.

Now, our attorneys strongly disagree with the DOJ’s new interpretation of the statute. We believe that a motion to set aside grants a person’s right to possess a firearm. However, we also recognize that the process of appealing the DOJ’s interpretation of the law will require a trial, an appeal to the Oregon Court of Appeals, and an appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court to reverse that interpretation. That appeals process will often take years to complete. To avoid that long wait, individuals can seek to restore their gun rights through another process which has been available for many years: a petition to restore gun rights under ORS 166.274. 

  • My firearm purchase was recently denied based on a conviction I had expunged. What can I do?

You can file a petition to restore your gun rights under ORS 166.274. That petition requires proving that you are not a danger to yourself or to the public and will require a hearing with a judge. If you are interested in this process, our attorneys will provide a 20-minute consultation about gun rights restoration at no charge. We work with individuals anywhere in Oregon to restore their gun rights. Call us at (503) 362-4866.

*Whether a particular felony conviction prevents a person from possessing a firearm is now an in-depth question in the Ninth Circuit, which includes Oregon. See our blogpost discussing the U.S. v. Duarte decision.