Can a Felon Hunt With a Muzzleloader?

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Introduction

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is often met by “it depends”. 

One way to spark a nationwide debate of firearms is to ask whether muzzleloaders are considered firearms. It is a common question that has so many definitive answers as it affects the hunting privileges of felons. The reason is that gun control laws typically apply to firearms. And if a muzzleloader does not fall under the firearms category, then the laws may fail to apply. What this means is that convicted felons, people with substance abuse problems, or pretty much anybody else can potentially be able to legally purchase a muzzleloader.

While this distinction may not matter to most people, the difference is quite important for those wishing to purchase the weapon. So is a muzzleloader a firearm?

Understanding Muzzleloaders

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) exempts particular “antique firearms” from federal gun control laws. The definition of an antique firearm by law typically includes any firearm manufactured on or before 1898 or a replica of such a firearm.

Another definition of muzzleloading pistols, muzzleloading rifles, and muzzleloading shotguns, are antique firearms, but only if they use black powder or a black powder substitute, and not fixed ammunition.

But the federal law also specifically excludes certain types of muzzleloaders from the antique firearms classification. Such include weapons that users can convert into a muzzle-loading weapon, or a muzzle-loading weapon that users can convert to fire fixed ammunition.

We can classify muzzleloaders a type of “antique firearm” by their action. Compared to most modern guns that are breech-loading, you can load muzzleloaders from the open end of the gun’s barrel. The concept of muzzleloaders resembles that of loading a canon.

Therefore, muzzleloaders rely on gunpowder. After you deposit the shell in the barrel, a pin fires the primer and the gun discharges. To increase the accuracy of muzzleloaders, one should clean the barrel after each shot or every few shots.

Requirements to Own a Muzzleloader

Since a muzzleloader is not considered to be a firearm in some states in The U.S, the requirements to own one are different. For one to own a firearm, one must have a permit. You do not need to have a permit to own or buy a muzzleloader.

But it is not so simple. Whereas the federal law allows felons to own antique firearms, state or local law may differ and classify such weapons as firearms. . Before buying a muzzleloading rifle, consider checking with the specific State Attorney General’s Office.

A person subject to federal firearms disabilities is not prohibited by the Gun Control Act to the possession of a black powder firearm. It is because black powder firearms are considered antique. 

And it is only true if the muzzleloader gun takes black powder for its ammunition and the piece cannot be converted into a weapon that takes fixed ammunition as a traditional firearm requires.

Regardless if you are a felon, you do need to be at least 18 or even 21 years old in some states to legally buy a muzzleloader.

What Does That Mean for Felons?

When it comes to this controversial issue, it usually depends on each state’s laws. You can purchase and own a firearm that is a replica of an antique muzzleloader or one that takes black powder as its firing mechanism.

However, having a muzzleloader does not mean you can hunt with it. You will still need a hunting license to be able to hunt legally. That will be up to each state to determine.

While the ultimate goal is to return to hunting, it is important to make sure that you are not in violation of the law. Check to make sure the firearm you have is a muzzleloader or an antique firearm. Then, know the laws for getting a hunting license and be aware of hunting season for muzzle-loading rifles.

It is better to take precautions. If one is a convicted felon, any form of negligence could result in an arrest and prosecution.

Should Felons be Allowed to Possess Muzzleloaders

Each year, people buy hunting licenses that allow them to hunt while carrying a firearm.

Under state law, there is no need for people to pass any type of background check to confirm if it is legal for them to possess a gun to get a hunting license. Also, there is no background check for a Sportsman’s Firearm Permit that allows people to have a handgun for hunting purposes.

It is a slack of the law that can arguably put game wardens in dangerous situations.

Federal law Vs State Law

Around deer hunting season, the question of whether an individual with a felony conviction can hunt with muzzleloaders is common. Under Federal Law, any individual convicted of a felony cannot purchase or possess a firearm. However, in breaking down the federal definition of a firearm does not include all muzzleloaders, yet it does include some. 

For example, an individual with an Indiana felony under federal law may be prohibited from possessing certain types of muzzleloaders. It depends on the particular type of muzzleloader. The general rule here is if requires a background check to buy then it is a firearm. And under Federal Law, a person with a felony record should not have a firearm.

But the analysis does not end at federal law when we look at Indiana State Law. Under Indiana State Law a muzzleloader gun meets the definition of a firearm. However, in Indiana Law, not all felons are prohibited from possessing firearms. According to Indiana law, persons convicted of domestic battery or a crime are under the Serious Violent Felon statute. The law does not allow them to be in possession of a firearm. Ultimately, the law prohibits such persons against possession of any sort of muzzleloader. 

It’s important to note that not all felons are under the “Serious Violent Felon” category. Therefore, certain types of felons with convictions can possess muzzleloader guns under Indiana state law

It is important to have an attorney analyze your situation and even the muzzleloader with which you intend to hunt before any determination as to whether your felony conviction is a prohibition for possession of a muzzleloader in the state that you live.

Conclusion

All convicted felons should be wary of locations where a firearm is present. They may be charged with constructive possession of that firearm. Constructive possession is when a felon is aware of the firearm and can exert control over that firearm. An example is a felon riding in a truck with other hunters who have firearms. 

However, no law prohibits convicted felons to use a bow, crossbow, or air guns during hunting seasons. Hunters who are on probation must consult with their probation officer before going hunting.

To learn more about the specific requirements in your state, contact the appropriate state agency. Gun dealers in your locale may also be helpful and provide some useful information. Contact an attorney, to learn about your specific rights and laws.

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