Under NRS 202.360, Nevada law prohibits certain categories of people from owning or possessing firearms. The list includes convicted felons, people subject to a domestic violence restraining order, fugitives, illegal aliens, drug users, and people adjudicated to be mentally ill. A person in one of these categories who unlawfully has a gun can be charged with a felony, punishable by 1 to 6 years in prison and a possible $5,000 fine.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys will discuss:
- 1. Who cannot lawfully possess guns in Nevada?
- 2. What happens to felons with a firearm in Nevada?
- 3. What is the penalty for unlawfully possessing guns under NRS 202.360?
- 4. How can an attorney fight the charges?
- 5. Is it deportable?
- 6. Can the record be sealed?
- 7. Can felons get their firearm rights back in Nevada?
- 8. Full text of statute
NRS 202.360 prohibits the following 12 categories of people from possessing, owning, or having any control of a firearm in the state of Nevada:
- Anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence in the U.S.1
- Anyone convicted of stalking a family member or current or former intimate partner in the U.S.2
- Anyone convicted of a felony in the U.S. unless the person received a pardon restoring the right to bear arms.3
- Anyone subject to an extended protection against domestic violence, and the order prohibits the person from having firearms.4
- Drug addicts or unlawful users of controlled substances.
- Anyone prohibited by federal law from having a gun (this also includes people dishonorably discharged from the armed forces as well as people who renounced their American citizenship).5
- Anyone adjudicated as mentally ill or committed to a mental health facility by a court in the U.S.
- Defendants who pleaded guilty but mentally ill in the U.S.
- Defendants found guilty but mentally ill in the U.S.
- Defendants acquitted by reason of insanity in the U.S.
- Undocumented aliens.
Firearms include any gun whether loaded or not, in working order or broken. And it includes all kind of guns, such as pistols, revolvers, long guns (rifles), and semi-automatic weapons.
NRS 202.360 is sometimes referred to as the law prohibiting ex-felons in possession of a firearm. But as discussed above, state law forbids far more people than convicted felons from keeping or carrying guns.
Note that lawful gun owners and carriers may still be prohibited from carrying guns and other deadly weapons in certain locations, such as schools and child care facilities. See our articles on open carry and background checks.
Also note that it is not a crime for otherwise prohibited persons to possess firearms or explosives in the course of lawful employment involving mining, agriculture, or construction.6
Felons caught with a firearm in Nevada face category B felony charges, which carry one to six years in state prison and up to $5,000 in fines.7 If a felon gets convicted of possessing firearms, it will likely be impossible to ever get their gun rights restored through a Governor’s Pardon.
It is a violation of federal law for convicted felons – or people charged with a felony – to possess a gun or ammunition that was transported across state lines. Penalties include up to 10 years in federal prison. And defendants with three or more previous felony convictions face at least 15 years in prison with no possibility of parole. Learn more about the federal crime of felons in possession of a firearm.8
The punishment for violating NRS 202.360 depends on the reason the defendant was prohibited from possessing firearms to begin with.
|Prohibited persons under NRS 202.360 ||Nevada sentence|
| ||Category B felony: |
| ||Category D felony: |
As long as Nevada prosecutors cannot establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt that a prohibited person possessed or owned a firearm, criminal charges should not stand. Four possible defenses to this crime are:
- The defendant was not prohibited from having a gun. Perhaps prosecutors are simply wrong to believe that the defendant is not permitted to be in possession of the firearm. For example perhaps the defendant was convicted of a felony, but then the defendant received a pardon restoring gun rights. The criminal defense attorney would compile the documentation necessary to show the court that NRS 202.360 does not apply to the defendant.10
- The police department found the gun through an illegal search. If a law enforcement agency found the defendant’s gun through an unlawful search and seizure, the defendant’s attorney can ask the court to suppress that gun as evidence. If the court agrees there was police misconduct, the district attorney may be left with too little forensic evidence to continue prosecuting the criminal case.11
- There was no possession. No crime occurred if the defendant was not in actual, constructive, or joint possession of a gun. As long as insufficient evidence exists that the defendant had control over a firearm, the charge should be dropped.
- The defendant was falsely accused. Perhaps someone levied false allegations against the defendant out of anger, revenge, or a misunderstanding. If the defendant can show that the accuser lacks credibility, the D.A. may be willing to drop the charge.
Another potential defense to charges of unlawful gun possession is that the defendant acted in lawful self-defense. This is a narrow argument that applies to emergency situations that would justify the defendant taking control of someone else’s firearm for only as long as necessary to fend off an attack he/she did not provoke. Nevada is a stand your ground state, but only if the person defending him/herself is not:
- the original aggressor;
- in the process of committing a crime;
- in a location where he/she is not allowed to be.
In self-defense cases, the criminal defense attorney would search for video surveillance and eyewitnesses to support the defendant’s position that “legal necessity” required the defendant to temporarily possess a firearm.12
Any gun-related crime is usually a deportable offense.13 Therefore, non-citizens charged with violating NRS 202.360 are advised to hire an attorney right away to try to negotiate the charge down to a dismissal or other offense that does not jeopardize resident status.
People convicted of violating NRS 202.360 may be eligible to seal their criminal record five years after the case closes. But if the charge gets dismissed, then there is no waiting period to petition the court for a record seal.14
The only way that people convicted of a felony in Nevada can regain their firearm rights is through a Nevada Governor’s pardon. Getting the felony case sealed does not restore gun rights.
Note that Nevada law is stricter than federal law. Felons can regain their gun rights under federal law when the conviction has been set aside, expunged, or pardoned, or if the state where the felony occurred restored the person’s gun rights.
Nevada grants very few pardons, and people typically have to wait several years after the felony case closed before they will be considered by the Nevada Board of Pardon Commissioners. (The Board consists of the state governor as well as the state supreme court justices and attorney general.)
When deciding whether to grant a pardon, the Nevada Board of Pardon Commissioners consider various factors:
- The nature of the felony. The more serious and violent the crime, the less likely that a pardon will be granted.
- How much time has elapsed. Felons are advised to wait at least five to 12 years before applying for a pardon depending on the severity of the case. And the case cannot be on appeal.
- Whether the person completed the sentence. People with outstanding fines or who were dishonorably discharged from probation will likely not be granted pardons.
- Criminal history. The longer the criminal history, the less likely that the pardon will be granted.
- Whether the felon shows remorse. Felons who maintain they were falsely accused will likely not be granted a pardon.
- Character. People who show they have been rehabilitated and are law-abiding, valuable members to society are more likely to get a pardon, especially if the felony is keeping them from getting gainful employment.
Other disqualifiers are if the person is currently the subject of a criminal investigation or is a registered sex offender.15
Learn more about how to get a pardon.
NRS 202: Crimes Against Public Health and Safety
NRs 202.360: Ownership or possession of firearm by certain persons prohibited; penalties.
1. A person shall not own or have in his or her possession or under his or her custody or control any firearm if the person:
(a) Has been convicted in this State or any other state of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33);
(b) Has been convicted of a felony in this State or any other state, or in any political subdivision thereof, or of a felony in violation of the laws of the United States of America, unless the person has received a pardon and the pardon does not restrict his or her right to bear arms;
(c) Has been convicted of a violation of NRS 200.575 or a law of any other state that prohibits the same or substantially similar conduct and the court entered a finding in the judgment of conviction or admonishment of rights pursuant to subsection 7 of NRS 200.575;
(d) Except as otherwise provided in NRS 33.031, is currently subject to:
(1) An extended order for protection against domestic violence pursuant to NRS 33.017 to 33.100, inclusive, which includes a statement that the adverse party is prohibited from possessing or having under his or her custody or control any firearm while the order is in effect; or
(2) An equivalent order in any other state;
(e) Is a fugitive from justice;
(f) Is an unlawful user of, or addicted to, any controlled substance; or
(g) Is otherwise prohibited by federal law from having a firearm in his or her possession or under his or her custody or control.
--> A person who violates the provisions of this subsection is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 6 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $5,000.
2. A person shall not own or have in his or her possession or under his or her custody or control any firearm if the person:
(a) Has been adjudicated as mentally ill or has been committed to any mental health facility by a court of this State, any other state or the United States;
(b) Has entered a plea of guilty but mentally ill in a court of this State, any other state or the United States;
(c) Has been found guilty but mentally ill in a court of this State, any other state or the United States;
(d) Has been acquitted by reason of insanity in a court of this State, any other state or the United States; or
(e) Is illegally or unlawfully in the United States.
--> A person who violates the provisions of this subsection is guilty of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.
3. As used in this section:
(a) “Controlled substance” has the meaning ascribed to it in 21 U.S.C. § 802(6).
(b) “Firearm” includes any firearm that is loaded or unloaded and operable or inoperable.
In California? See our article on felon in possession of a firearm (PC 29800).
In Colorado? See our article on possession of a weapon by a previous offender (CRS 18-12-108).
- Nevada Revised Statute 202.360; 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33); also see our article about battery domestic violence (NRS 200.485).
- NRS 202.360; also see our article about stalking (NRS 200.575).
- Also see our article about Governor’s pardons; also see Attorney General Opinion 83-13 (9-14-1983).
- Also see our article on guns and extended restraining orders.
- 18 U.S. Code § 922.
- NRS 202.360. NRS 202.260.
- 18 U.S.C. § 922(g).
- NRS 202.360.
- See e.g., State ex rel. Orsborn v. Fogliani, 82 Nev. 300, 417 P.2d 148 (1966); Sanders v. State, 96 Nev. 341, 609 P.2d 324 (1980).
- See, e.g., Allan v. State, 103 Nev. 512, 746 P.2d 138 (Nevada Supreme Court, 1987); Wyatt v. State, 86 Nev. 294, 468 P.2d 338 (1970); also see our article about search warrants.
- NRS 200.275. NRS 200.200 Killing in self-defense. (“If a person kills another in self-defense, it must appear that: 1. The danger was so urgent and pressing that, in order to save the person’s own life, or to prevent the person from receiving great bodily harm, the killing of the other was absolutely necessary; and 2. The person killed was the assailant, or that the slayer had really, and in good faith, endeavored to decline any further struggle before the mortal blow was given.). NRS 200.120 “Justifiable homicide” defined; no duty to retreat under certain circumstances. (1. Justifiable homicide is the killing of a human being in necessary self-defense, or in defense of an occupied habitation, an occupied motor vehicle or a person, against one who manifestly intends or endeavors to commit a crime of violence, or against any person or persons who manifestly intend and endeavor, in a violent, riotous, tumultuous or surreptitious manner, to enter the occupied habitation or occupied motor vehicle, of another for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person dwelling or being therein. 2. A person is not required to retreat before using deadly force as provided in subsection 1 if the person: (a) Is not the original aggressor; (b) Has a right to be present at the location where deadly force is used; and (c) Is not actively engaged in conduct in furtherance of criminal activity at the time deadly force is used.).
- 8 U.S. Code § 1227
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.
- Official Nevada Board of Pardon Commissioners website.