Can I Buy a Handgun If I Have a DUI?

Generally, anyone convicted of a felony cannot purchase a handgun. It’s important to know both federal and state DUI laws so you can find out where you fit in.

Having a DUI on your record is pretty serious business and will affect a lot of things you might not have expected. One of these is the purchase and possession of handguns. Although state DUI laws vary, we can give you an idea of what to expect as a rule.

Part of the reason it’s difficult to give a direct answer is the fact that DUIs can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. The difference between the two can depend on prior convictions, the presence of other passengers in the car, and injuries caused in case of an accident. In most states, if it is a first offense and no one was injured, you will be charged with a misdemeanor.

If this is the second or third offense or if DUI manslaughter was involved, chances are you’re looking at a felony offense, which has much more serious long-term consequences, even after the sentence has been carried out. In New York and Wyoming, two DUIs within ten years of each other constitute a felony, while other states such as Georgia and Texas move DUIs into felony status upon the third or fourth conviction.

Under federal law, convicted felons may not legally possess firearms or firearm ammunition, although there are some states that permit convicted felons to purchase handguns once a certain amount of time has passed since the end of their probation. This, however, is rare. Most states give no leeway whatsoever, and convicted felons are simply unable to legally own guns of any kind without a pardon from the governor.

While it’s fairly straightforward to say that felons are generally not allowed to buy guns, it’s trickier to determine that for someone facing a misdemeanor charge. This is another instance where it varies greatly from state to state. Not only may non-felony DUIs be given different classes of misdemeanor in each state, but the gun laws will apply to various misdemeanor groups differently.

Let’s look at Texas for one example. They use the term DUI to apply specifically to minors, while DWI is the term applied to adults caught driving under the influence, so we will use “DWI” in this explanation. The first DWI charge is a Class B misdemeanor, the second is a Class A, and the third is a felony. Vehicular manslaughter and DWI with a child passenger are also felonies. We’ve discussed the impact of a felony conviction on the right to own a gun, so let’s examine the misdemeanors.

The gun laws in Texas prohibit anyone from buying a handgun if they have been convicted of a Class A or Class B misdemeanor once in the past five years or twice in the past ten years. In Texas, therefore, if you had one misdemeanor DWI six years ago, you can legally purchase a handgun, but if you had one six years ago and one two years before that, you cannot.