HELENA, Mont. -

An appellate court says Montana felons can't possess firearms after they have served their sentences if they don't qualify for a concealed-weapons permit.
    
The July 16 ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals came in the case of convicted rapist Frank Van der hule, who was denied the purchase of a gun after completing a 25-year prison sentence.
    
Montana's constitution restores the civil rights of offenders after their sentences have expired and they are no longer under the state's supervision.
    
But the Montana Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that a separate state law prohibits offenders from having a concealed-weapons permit if they spent more than a year in prison or were convicted of certain crimes.
    
The federal panel ruled that limitation triggers a broader federal ban on felony possession.