Under current Georgia law, Georgia felons may have their rights to carry firearms restored five years after the completion of both their sentences and any probationary period.
Georgia's Gun Law Statutes Drift Toward Permissiveness
Over the course of several years, Georgia has consistently liberalized both its laws and parole board actions pertaining to the rights of felons to carry firearms. More importantly, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has been increasingly generous in granting these gun rights restorations under the prevailing statutes. According to the Associated Press, between 2008 and 2013 these boards restored gun rights to more than 1,400 felons. Another report noted that in 2013 alone 666 felons got their gun rights back. This represented a 1,000 percent increase over the number of restorations in 2008.
The 2010 Gun Law Revision
Prior to 2010, with only a few exceptions, a felon convicted of a "forceable crime" could not have his gun rights restored. The exceptions were generally difficult to qualify for. One exception, for example, was a pardon issued by the president of the United States.
Under the 2010 statute, restoration got easier. Georgia Code §16-11-131 states that the "code section shall not apply to any person who has been pardoned for the felony by ... the (Georgia) State Board of Pardons and Paroles."
Georgia's parole boards recognize two different kinds of pardons. One, a complete pardon, is still uncommon. But the boards recognize and increasingly grant another kind of pardon that does not exonerate the felon for the crime but does restore gun rights.
Opposition to Georgia's Gun Rights Restoration Policies
Gun rights in general are an emotionally charged subject for many Americans. On the one hand, many deplore the wide availability of guns generally and are particularly incensed about Georgia's restoration of gun rights to felons. A 2014 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article detailed several instances where felons who were judged violent had their gun rights restored, and the AJC held the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles responsible, as the article's title indicates: "Georgia Felons Re-arm – With State's Blessing."
Other states have noticed this trend as well. In 2016, New York's attorney general released a detailed report of gun sales, especially guns coming to New York from other states, and described the association of these guns with subsequent crimes. The attorney general noted that Georgia was one of three states that accounted for a disproportionate number of these importations and called on Georgia to toughen up its gun laws.
In Defense of Georgia's Gun Rights Restoration Policies
On the other hand, Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles has defended its policy. In 2015, it noted that the current statute stipulated that felons could qualify for this pardon only five years after the completion of their sentences and any following probationary period. They also cited a number of other requirements, all of them designed to keep guns out of the hands of felons inclined to violence. The board also distinguished between what are often called "pardons" but are legally only restorations of specific rights and full pardons, which, they noted, are still rare.