Reprinted from the January 2013 issue of GunNews Magazine.

Originally posted to Guns Save Life in December 2012.  We’re re-posting it because of recent demand. 

DISCLAIMER:  Guns Save Life does not have lawyers on staff, and every state has their own set of rules regarding this issue. 

If you are interested in this course of action, your best bet is to go to a meeting of a gun rights group in your state, and ask people there for lawyer recommendations.  Then, talk to an attorney in your state.  The information below applies only to Illinois, and even if you’re an Illinois resident, you’ll need a lawyer to jump through the hoops.

(Guns Save Life) – The Director of the Illinois State Police or a local court shall restore a felon’s firearm civil rights in Illinois, under the Firearms Owner’s Identification Act under the following conditions, per the FOID Act:

  1. the applicant has not been convicted of a forcible felony under the laws of this State or any other jurisdiction within 20 years of the applicant’s application for a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card, or at least 20 years have passed since the end of any period of imprisonment imposed in relation to that conviction;
  2. the applicant’s criminal history and his reputation are such that the applicant will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety;
  3. granting relief would not be contrary to the public interest; and
  4. granting relief would not be contrary to federal law.

…The Director shall grant the relief if it is established by a preponderance of the evidence that the person will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety and that granting relief would not be contrary to the public interest.

There are also similar requirements for individuals convicted of felonies as juveniles.

In cases of more minor, non-violent felonies, this restoration process often occurs with a minimal amount of difficulty if the individual has led a trouble-free life for twenty or more years since the initial conviction or since any incarceration was completed.

Obviously, the burden of proof upon the petitioner will be much higher for individuals who have been convicted of violent crimes, particular those involving the criminal misuse of firearms.

Real world experiences of reformed felons securing carry licenses

by John Boch

In my experiences as a firearms instructor, I have had reformed felons in our GSL Defense Training courses before, with FOID cards in good standing.  They usually come to my attention when they call and ask for assistance after they have applied for a Florida carry license and received a rejection letter based upon the felony conviction.

I also know of at least two of these individuals who have gone on to submit supplementary information to Florida about Illinois’ process for restoring firearm civil rights.  In each case, the licenses were granted, but then again, the convictions were for non-violent felonies twenty- or thirty-plus years before.


Advice from an attorney

Attorney John Russell, who represented Mark McPherson (see below), offered some informal recommendations to those “who have been on the straight and narrow” and led exemplary lives since their felony troubles ended.

1) Engaging an attorney.  Particularly in urban areas, and particularly in Cook County, the judges and the State’s Attorney’s office seem predisposed to oppose any and all FOID card applications from former felons.

2)  Realize that the nature of the initial convictions and any subsequent run-ins with the law during the twenty year period will have an effect, and be used by the State’s attorney as evidence of reputation.  The applicant really needs to look like a Boy Scout if he hopes to succeed.  Violent crimes will make it much more difficult.  Any subsequent issues will be used against the applicant.

Realize in places like Cook County, they seem to be looking for any excuse.  Any profound character issues could be hard to defend against.

3) A history of community service and community involvement is extremely helpful.  It’s easier to convince a judge that someone has truly repaired his reputation when he can point to a lot of objective evidence that adds up to a good reputation.

4) Line up some solid testimony to prove the reputation evidence.  Mark had that in spades.  Whether its submitted via affidavit, or live, in-court testimony, it helps when reputable, credible, believable people are willing to go to bat for the petitioner.  You can’t just have your boss and your mother-in-law.

For more information, feel free to contact Mr. Russell’s office.

John R. Russell, Ltd.
401 East 162nd Street, Suite 203
South Holland, Illinois 60473
708.359.4906 tel
708.310-3555 fax
john at


Reformed felons can get their rights restored

Mark McPherson.

(Guns Save Life) – Meet Mark McPherson, convicted of armed robbery.  Twice.

That was another time though.  Since then, Mark’s been an exemplary citizen:  married, father, business owner, and a volunteer in his community in the twenty-plus years since his release.

He recently completed a nearly three-year fight to regain his firearm civil rights, under the terms of the Firearms Owners Identification Act, in the not-so-gun-friendly confines of Cook County, IL.

He was met was rabid opposition from Cook Co. State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office at every turn, but with the help of John Russell, he navigated the process in the courts, thanks in part to his reputation and armed with some superlative character references.

McPherson persisted in a long, expensive journey that included a trip to the First District Appellate Court which slapped down the original Cook County judge, rejecting his opinion, vacating his decision, and remanding it back to the local court for any additional evidence.

At a later hearing, the State merely re-hashed the same evidence as the Appeals Court earlier rejected as insufficient to preclude granting relief in this case.  The trial court judge ordered the Illinois State Police to issue the FOID card.

23 thoughts on “REFORMED FELONS: Get your firearm rights restored”
  1. I would love for someone to show me exactly how I would go about getting my foid,and becoming clear to own a firearm. Over 20 years ago I committed two non-violent felony thefts of buckets of coins(both counts same incident).I have since been totally reformed. I currently have a pardon on the governors desk,which has been languishing there for almost two years. I have hunted actively with a bow and all the necessary fees and papers paid off and on,but never have much luck…sure would love to be able to shotgun hunt. Any help would be appreciated.

  2. Bryan,

    Shoot Mr. Russell an email!

    There’s also some language on the ISP website about the process if you want to DIY.


  3. please help me i want to be able to hunt on my own land again my felony was non violent and no drugs

  4. How about the government be prohibited from getting involved in declaring people “prohibited persons”, period?

  5. As a Jewess in the US, I can only say that ANY anti-gun plan from an ignoramus like Slow Joe Biden or his dirty Kenyan boss is bound to be a loser idea. Certainly it will make all REAL Americans put our 2nd Amendment FIRST! Both criminals and overbearing governments respect FIREPOWER, not sweet talk. And remember that America wasn’t won with a registered gun!

  6. It is only my opinion but once a felon completes his or her state or federal mandated punishment their rights, in total, should be restored. Those with violent or sexual convictions should spend the rest of their lives in prison. For example, that nut-job that set the fire and then attacked the responding firemen at Christmas time had spent 18 years in prison for beating his grandmother to death with a hammer. This man damaged property, killed several people, terrorized his neighborhood, and illegally had possession of firearms. He should have been spending his holidays wasting away in prison. On the other end of the argument, someone with a simply drug possession should do their time and then once out have their rights restored. How can you expect a felon to ever truly mix back into society if they have no chance to regain those lost rights afforded to all citizens?

    1. Not only that, but a felony conviction can prevent a person from getting a job. Got caught smoking pot? Good luck ever getting decent paying work or a decent place to live. And we wonder why recidivism is so high.

  7. 20 years ago got into it with sister on my proprty no gun involved she ran to town had me arrested domestic battery never laid finger on her she lied before its over i lost my gun card im a 4 year veteran no gun card i need help im 64 and cant take gun coon hunting killin me help

  8. There needs to be a fight against abuse od state laws to deny FOID cards. 18 years ago my now ex accused me of domestic battery. Got dropped never went to court, had FOID until 2 years ago was denied at renal. Hot headed Iroquois county states attorney refused my attorney to straighten it out.

  9. Hey mrapple, I’m a violent felon. Been in 3 bar fights, 3 batteries equals felony battery. You think I should be In prison for life? If so your a fascist bastard. The laws out there are [language, please, Mr. James. This is a family-friendly website. ~JBoch] ridiculous. I been arrested for attempted trespassing. This country is so overburdened with bs laws,. We imprison a higher percentage of people than communist china, Cuba, Russia and Venezuela. Land of the free eh”…………..

    1. you nailed it brother!! I’m a “convicted violent felon too.” I found my wife naked in bed with another man. Didn’t touch her but put the guy in the hospital for an overnight and bout 40 stiches. They charged me with an agg assault “felony” because of his injurys. According to mrapple I should never see the light of day again. This was 10 yrs ago. I did 2 in prison. Now I’m remarried and own a business. not so much as a speeding ticket. My whore ex-wife on the other hand….. yea… and I got locked up. The “system” is fucked. and so are you mrapple

  10. I was convicted 20+ years ago of selling a 6 year sentence@ 30% . While on parole i was busted again. This time for haventpossession of a pound of a year added to my parole.havent been in trouble since then. Other than minor traffic infractions here and there. what do you think my chances would be of getting loaded gun rights back

  11. Kudos to GSL for defending the rights of reformed felons.

    I’m proud of GSL and its inclusiveness to all law-abiding gun owners and would-be gun owners.


  12. How many reformed felons have ten grand to spend on an attorney to fight through the process?

    Moral of the story: Don’t do felonious crap I suppose.

  13. I was convicted of second degree assault by a jury in 2002 for a bar fight claiming self defense…then I thought you had the right to defend yourself anytime against four guys that started trouble…Now I learned that you run for your life or call the authorities while getting your teeth kicked in…I’ve finished my sentence five years ago…Can I restore my rights?

    1. Probably in about 10 years.

      Call Mr. Russell.

      You should’ve gotten yourself a better lawyer.


  14. I was given 1410 probation for a possession case in 2010 and completed it witth no problems. I was told, if the probation was completed, the conviction would not even show up on my record. If this is true, it should not prevent me from getting a FOID card correct?

  15. First of all I as well am a felon for putting 3 of 4 cops in the hospital….long story but you don’t spray mase around a 6 month old baby being my daughter especially not announcing theselves being police officers…also there’s was a false anonymous call made that initiated the whole situaton….anyway I live by my constitution seeing is I do live in America and they NOT control me with Marxism and transpiring police state that steps on my constitutional rights……The 2nd amendment says all people have a right to bear arms period also IT SHALL NOT INFRINGED UPON …..there’s no regulations or restrictions in that amendment!……people are stupid for abiding by it its not breaking the law to own fire arm…..and the people that vote these illegal constitional whores deserve to live by the new unconstitional laws

  16. John I totally agree I have a felony DUI haven’t ever even been in an accident just three duis makes it a felony now I can go hunting with my son or have protection in my house legally that’s bs I’m sticking to my 2nd amendment RIGHT not PRIVILEGE
    F U M F
    Thanks bye now

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