Recently we did an article exploring the question of whether a felon can own a crossbow, and the answer, as is often the case when it comes to felons and their rights, was basically “yes, with caveats.” Now let’s see about whether a felon can own a normal bow or not! Oh you may want to check out our article about going to a shooting range also.
Can a Felon Own a Bow?
First, a definition: a bow is “a weapon for shooting arrows, typically made of a curved piece of wood joined at both ends by a taut string.” So this, naturally, is very different from a crossbow. “A crossbow, resembling something between a rifle and a bow, uses a fast string to launch projectiles—just as a bow does—but also has a stock and trigger like a rifle.”
Bows are NOT Firearms
A bow isn’t viewed by the government as a “firearm. You can visit our previous article for the definition of firearm here (insert link), but essentially since a bow doesn’t use an explosive force to fire a projectile, it’s not a “fire”-arm. But a bow does obviously launch a lethal projectile (an arrow), and can easily kill a person if in the wrong hands. So what does the law say about allowing convicted felons to purchase and use such a deadly item?
Purchasing a Bow and Your Rights
Federal law does not touch on bow ownership much. As long as the felon’s sentence has been served, they’re allowed to go out and buy a bow, so long as they only use it for it’s intended legal purpose, i.e. either hunting or target shooting practice as long as you are not at a shooting range.
As long as no one is out shooting apples off a people’s heads, there should be no issues. Convicted felons are, in general, able to even own other types of weapons, and as we discussed before, some can own crossbows…some can even have their gun ownership rights restored. Gun ownership restoration largely depends on the felony and the amount of time which has elapsed since the crime was committed, but that’s a whole other topic.
Breaking Down State Laws and Felon Bow Ownership
As always, it is still wise to consult your local state authorities or even your parole officer if you have any concerns or doubts about your ability to obtain and possess a weapon such as a bow. Many states have laws which are more restrictive than the overall federal laws, and indeed some counties can even impose harsher restrictions still. So we highly recommend reading the websites for your specific state and county.
For example, some have questioned whether Idaho laws actually restrict bow ownership at this time, because it’s definition of a firearm is broader than average. A firearm, per their laws, is
any weapon from which a shot, projectile or other object may be discharged by force of combustion, explosive, gas and/or mechanical means, whether operable or inoperable.” Some have therefore interpreted that to include a bow, because of the inclusion of the words “mechanical means.”
(Source: www.idfg.idaho.gov )
However further research via the Idaho Department of Fish and Game website indicates that such restrictions have been lifted: “Idaho no longer restricts felons’ possession of archery equipment.” I’d say the takeaway lesson here is, do your homework and don’t just accept the first answer you read!
New Hampshire State Law
Another state to consider is New Hampshire. Their law has a pretty specific breakdown of what is a “deadly weapon” (and therefore a thing which would be banned from felon ownership). As their law states, a
“pistol, revolver, or other firearm, or slingshot, brass knuckles, billies, stiletto, switchblade knife, sword cane, pistol cane, blackjack, dagger and dirk knives are deadly weapons.”
(Source link: http://www.seacoastonline.com)
But–no mention of a bow (or arrow, since technically that would be the deadly part!).
Consult Local and State Law Experts
Our organization, Help For Felons, advises all felons to consult with a lawyer before they purchase a bow. While little federal oversight of bows exists it is possible for a discrete state, county or local law may exist.
Time to Go Hunting!
When it comes to sports and leisure activities, felons enjoy the same types of things as anyone else, and it is very healthy to cultivate hobbies and habits that get a person outdoors. It’s good exercise and good for the soul to be out in the woods! So luckily, those persons who enjoy going out bow hunting or even just firing off a few arrows for target practice should have no worries about taking part of such things.
Once the felon is out of jail, they do have to be careful about what they do and what they buy, but buying a bow and using it for legal purposes is generally fine.
Our standard disclaimer: like we always say, we aren’t here to offer any legal advice, and we always encourage persons with a criminal record to ask a qualified attorney for expert advice.
But we try to give you the basics and point you in the right direction. So yes, a felon can own a bow in most circumstances, because a bow isn’t considered a firearm. You may not be free to go to your local gun store and buy a rifle, but if you want to hunt with a bow, and as long as you are able to obtain the proper seasonal hunting tags where you live, then you should be cleared for takeoff!