Gun Ownership … for the Wife of a Felon

Students often ask me unique questions and bring up interesting points of discussion. And while often we can have good conversations and share new information, there are instances in which I don’t have an answer or I don’t feel qualified to share a response. Such a case presented itself the other day after I taught a basic pistol class. One of the ladies asked a question, and I basically answered her with wide eyes, a slight shrug and an “Ohhh … that’s a bit complicated.” So I turned to a friend of mine, Sabrina Karels, who happens to be a lawyer and a member of the USCCA Legal Advisory Board, for a more thorough and qualified reply. I am sharing it with you, because I feel that it’s valid information that someone, somewhere, might need to know.

Here are the basics: My student wants to be able to protect herself and her loved ones, and, after class, she asked me if she can legally have a gun in her home, in her car or on her person when her husband has a felony in his past. “It was over 10 years ago and was a non-violent felony. No trouble since then,” she said. “But I just want to know what I can legally do before spending a lot of money on a gun.”

Thanks to Sabrina, I was able to share with my student that while it technically would be fine for her, it could potentially become a problem. Sabrina shared that her husband can’t be in “possession” of a firearm. And that’s where things can get a bit tricky, depending on the perception of or the definition of that word “possession.” She explained, “If something happens, and there is a firearm in the home and he also lives in the home, the police could consider that in his constructive possession. Some have argued if it is in a safe to which he does not have access, he is not in ‘possession,’ but, again, it will depend on the law enforcement office…

“If it is deemed in his possession, he could be charged with state and/or federal gun crimes, and the firearm will be confiscated. Constructive possession could be found if he knew the firearm was in the home and could exercise control over it. She could be at risk in that scenario, as well, since she knows he’s a felon and may be found to have acted with intent to aid him in constructive possession.

“That said, it will depend on the state and that state’s laws, as well as the jurisdiction, to see if there is a big risk or low risk. He should contact a criminal defense lawyer in his jurisdiction to discuss this and determine if the risk is worth it.”

Sabrina also did mention that my student’s husband does have some options (depending on my home state of Alabama) to try to restore his rights. But all in all, she suggested that my student might be better off talking to an attorney about the situation rather than investing the money for a firearm.

Undoubtedly, it’s great to have friends who are “in the know.” Sabrina’s knowledgeable answer was much better received than my deer-in-the-headlights look. And while I believe the preservation of life is always “worth it,” I hope my student is able to work something out in which she can safely protect herself physically without being unsafe legally.