Can a Felon Own a Crossbow? State Laws and Restrictions Explained

For felons looking to legally own a crossbow for hunting or recreational purposes, it helps to understand if state and federal laws permit firearm or weapon restrictions to also apply to crossbows. This detailed guide examines crossbow regulations for felons across all 50 states.

At a Glance: Felon Crossbow Ownership Laws by State

Before diving into specifics on background checks, types of felony convictions and other factors, here is a high-level overview of legal crossbow ownership for felons based on existing state statutes:

Can Own Crossbow With Felony ConvictionAlaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Cannot Own Crossbow With Felony ConvictionAlabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia

The 28 states in green permit felon ownership under most circumstances, while the 22 states in red prohibit it if convicted of certain felonies. But regulations can be complex, so read on for more details on your state.

Federal Law Regarding Felons and Weapons

The US federal law that prohibits some felons from possessing firearms is 18 U.S. Code § 922(g)(1). This statute bars anyone convicted of “a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” from owning guns or ammo. But it does NOT explicitly include or preclude crossbows.

So under federal law, it’s up to individual states to regulate crossbow ownership for felons. The federal ban only applies to firearms and explosives defined under the US Gun Control Act. But again – crossbows currently have no federal restrictions.

With no overarching federal laws on felons and crossbow ownership, states take varying approaches when interpreting broader weapons and hunting regulations. Let’s examine some key considerations.

Why Do Laws Differ by State for Felons Owning Crossbows?

Unlike firearms with very clear federal restrictions against felon possession, states are left to come up with their own specific crossbow regulations regarding use, hunting, sales, and ownership – including policies for those convicted of felonies.

When creating statutes, lawmakers consider factors like:

  • Public perception – Are crossbows viewed as dangerous weapons or hunting tools?
  • Industry lobbying – Hunting associations advocate keeping crossbow access open.
  • Rural needs – More lenient policies in agriculture and hunting-focused areas.
  • Urban pressures – Push for tighter weapon restrictions in cities.

With varied cultural values and industry priorities across states, approaches to crossbow laws are far from universal. The complex legal landscape creates confusion for those with felony records trying to discern if they’re legally permitted to own a crossbow.

When Can Felons Own Crossbows Under State Laws?

If no federal crossbow ownership policies exist for felons, under what circumstances can those convicted of crimes legally possess one? Here are some key considerations:

Type of Felony Matters

  • Non-violent felony? Often permitted, unless related to weapons or hunting violations
  • Violent felony conviction? Typically prohibited from owning weapons
  • Firearm restriction? Likely extends to crossbows

Time Since Conviction Important

  • Long ago offenses may have restore rights if record expunged
  • Recent violent convictions have more owning restrictions

Background Check Requirements

  • Prior convictions may still prevent legal sales after checks
  • Private sales often don’t mandate checks

So state laws weigh factors like felony type, time passed, weapon restrictions, and vendor background checks. Let’s look at some specific state examples.

Select State Laws and Penalties Overview

While not comprehensive for every locale, here are some examples across a diversity of states regarding crossbow laws affecting felons:


  • Crossbows regulated under broader weapon and firearms laws
  • Violent felons prohibited from owning crossbows
  • 10 year sentence possible for possession by convicted felon


  • No state regulations prohibiting most felons owning crossbows
  • Exceptions for felons with family violence convictions
  • Must pass federal and state background checks for sales


  • Crossbows included under firearm restrictions for felons
  • Challenging to legally own crossbow with any felony conviction
  • Possible felon-in-possession of weapon felony charge

So based on location, crossbow restrictions can vary widely – from permits in Texas to outright bans in Michigan. Consult local statutes for specifics.

Hunting Regulations and Restrictions

Aside from purchasing and owning crossbow equipment, regulations related to hunting activities often have separate conditions impacting felons. Examples include:

These hunting-specific constraints create additional layers limiting legal participation by felons even when crossbow ownership itself may technically be legal.

Consult an Attorney Before Attempting to Purchase

Given the complex state-by-state variability in crossbow restrictions for felons, those considering acquiring one should first consult a qualified legal professional. While this guide provides high-level background, only an attorney well-versed in your state statues can definitively advise if purchasing or owning a crossbow is legal based on your unique criminal record and personal history.

An counsel expert can help carefully navigate the permissions process so those eligible to legally own a crossbow can successfully do so after serving their sentences, while also avoiding any inadvertent violations leading to new charges. Definitely seek professional legal help before attempting to buy.

What States Are Most Lenient for Felon Crossbow Owners?

In general, more conservative and rural states located in the American South, Midwest and West tend to have more permissive laws allowing most types of felons to ultimately own crossbow equipment after serving sentences:

Most Lenient Crossbow Restrictions for Felons

These locales either lack explicit bans in statutes, allow rights to be restored over time, or only limit ownership associated with very recent or serious violent felony convictions. Proceed with caution and legal counsel, however, when considering acquiring a crossbow after a felony.

Be Informed and Seek Legal Guidance

Hopefully, this guide provides helpful background on whether or not you may legally own a crossbow given a prior felony conviction based on current state laws. But due to intricacies and frequent changes in statutes, always consult an attorney before acquisition attempts or hunting activities. Avoid guesses or assumptions to ensure your rights are protected and risks mitigated. Knowledge of the law is key!