You may have heard people talk about sealing their record. In Texas we call this a non-disclosure, and a person may be eligible for a non-disclosure of their criminal history if they meet certain criteria. When a record is non-disclosed by a court the public will not have access to your criminal record. For example, when applying for a job, a potential employer may run a background check on a candidate during the hiring process. A sealed record allows the applicant to proceed through the job process without fear of their criminal history causing a problem. However, even though records are shielded from the public, the record isn’t hidden from some governmental entities. This is especially true for law enforcement, including the FBI.
So, can I purchase and possess a gun with a sealed record?
Unfortunately, because of the intersection of federal law and state law, it all comes down to whether a background check will clear a purchaser to buy a firearm. When conducting background checks for purchasers of a gun, Texas sellers utilize the FBI’s NICS database. The FBI searches a person’s entire record, public or private (including the existence of sealed records), to determine if the purchase would violate state and federal law. However, the FBI’s background check system can only see records submitted to it by other law enforcement agencies and state courts. The existence of some sealed records may not have been made available to NICS and, therefore, will not show up on the background check. Thus, a person with a sealed record could potentially purchase a gun.
In most cases, to buy a gun from a licensed dealer an individual undergoes a background check as part of the sale. If a seller is a federally licensed firearms dealer, they must conduct a check on the purchaser. The background check will reveal any record that would be an automatic prohibition from purchasing a gun. Some of these prohibitions include a conviction for any crime punishable by imprisonment for more than a year, being a fugitive from justice, dishonorable discharge from the military, subject to a protective order, or any conviction for misdemeanor domestic violence. However, currently, the state of Texas does not require private sellers or unlicensed sellers conduct background checks.
In Texas, a person may legally possess a handgun on their own property or in their car if they are not prohibited for some other reason. Here is where it can get murky. A person may legally possess the handgun even while on deferred probation under Texas law but prohibited from possessing the same gun under federal law. Another confusing intersection of federal and state law is federal law prohibits anyone convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year imprisonment—which in Texas would be all felonies—from possessing a gun anywhere. Texas law, however, would allow a person to regain their gun possession rights after the fifth anniversary of the person’s release from confinement (prison) or supervision (probation) for a felony offense.
What should I do if I want to get a gun?
A person with a sealed record could purchase a gun if the federal background check clears them to do so, or if they decide to buy from a private vendor. As gun laws continue to change on the federal and state level, it is important to consult with an attorney if you have any questions before making a firearms purchase. Contact a gun law attorney at Collin County Law Group today to see if you qualify to purchase a gun. The attorneys at Collin County Law Group have over 100 years in helping clients protect their gun rights.