Federal law makes it a serious crime for certain prohibited persons to
possess or sell firearms. Under federal law, one can also expect to receive
a very serious sentence for possessing certain types of illegal firearms
or using a firearm in furtherance of some other crime, such as robbery
or drug trafficking. Below is a brief summary of some of the relevant statutes.
I. POSSESSION OF A FIREARM OR AMMUNITION BY A PROHIBITED PERSON
18 USC § 922(g) & (n). Punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.
May receive minimum sentence of 15 years without parole if offender has
three or more prior convictions for a felony crime of violence (e.g. burglary,
robbery, assault, possession of offensive weapons) and/or drug trafficking felony.
A. Possession or receipt of a firearm or ammunition;
B. By a subject who falls within one of the following categories:
1. Felon – (Additionally, persons awaiting trial on felony charges
are prohibited from receiving firearms.);
2. Drug user or addict – (Often shown where paraphernalia seized,
subject tests positive for drugs and/or subject claims drugs were possessed
for personal use.);
3. Alien – (Includes illegal aliens and aliens lawfully admitted
under non-immigrant visas, i.e., those aliens not admitted for permanent
residence. This provision does not prohibit aliens who lawfully possess
a so-called "green card" from possessing guns or ammunition.);
4. Is subject to a domestic restraining order – (The order must prohibit
contact with an intimate partner, or child of the subject, and must have
been issued only after a hearing of which the subject was notified and
at which the subject had an opportunity to participate. The order must
also find the subject poses a threat to the physical safety of the intimate
partner or child or must prohibit the use, threatened use or attempted
use of physical force.);
5. Has a prior conviction for domestic assault – (Includes a prior
conviction for any assault or threatened use of a deadly weapon against
a present or former spouse or partner or child or guardian of any such
person. The subject must have been entitled to a jury trial and been represented
by counsel in the prior proceeding or be shown to have waived those rights.);
6. Fugitive from justice – (Fled any state to avoid being prosecuted
or to avoid testifying in any criminal proceeding.); or
7. Dishonorably discharged from the military; AND
C. The firearm or ammunition was transported across a state line at any
time. [Note, that means at any point during the manufacture or supply
chain prior to the sale of the firearm or ammunition, meaning that it
does not need to have been actually transported across state lines by
the end user or person charged with possessing the items himself/herself).
II. KNOWINGLY SELL, GIVE OR OTHERWISE DISPOSE OF ANY FIREARM OR AMMUNITION TO ANY PERSON WHO FALLS WITHIN ONE OF THE ABOVE CATEGORIES:
18 USC § 922(d). Punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.
III. USE, CARRY OR POSSESS A FIREARM IN RELATION TO OR IN FURTHERANCE OF
A DRUG FELONY OR A FEDERAL CRIME OF VIOLENCE:
18 USC § 924(c). Punishment ranges from at least 5 years up to life
imprisonment, without parole, or death if death results from use of firearm.
Sentence must be served consecutive to any other sentence. Mandatory minimum
sentence increases depending upon: the type of firearm involved (sawed-off
gun, silencer, etc.); whether more than one offense was committed; and
whether gun was simply possessed or was brandished or discharged.
IV. STOLEN FIREARM, AMMUNITION OR EXPLOSIVE:
18 USC §§842(h); 922(i), (j) & (u). Punishable by up to 10
A. May not receive, possess, conceal, store, pledge or accept as security
for a loan, barter, sell or ship or transport across a state line any
stolen firearm, ammunition or explosive.
B. May not steal or unlawfully take or carry away a firearm from the person
or premises of a firearms licensee.
V. FIREARM IN A SCHOOL ZONE:
18 USC § 922(q)(2)(A). Punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment.
A. Except as authorized, may not possess or discharge a firearm in a school zone.
VI. KNOWINGLY POSSESS OR MANUFACTURE:
18 USC § 922(k), (o) & (v); 26 USC § 5861. Punishable by
up to 5 or 10 years imprisonment, depending upon specific violation.
A. Any machine gun, fully automatic firearm or any part designed or intended
exclusively for use in such weapon;
B. Any firearm silencer, including any device, or part thereof, designed
to silence, muffle or diminish the report of a firearm;
C. Sawed-off shotgun with a barrel length of less than 18″ or overall
length less than 26″;
D. Sawed-off rifle with a barrel length of less than 16″ or overall
length less than 26″;
E. Destructive device;
F. Semi-automatic assault weapon manufactured after October 1, 1993; OR
G. Any firearm which lacks a serial number or contains an altered or obliterated
VII. SELL, DELIVER OR TRANSFER TO A JUVENILE:
18 USC § 922(x)(1). Punishable by up to 1 year imprisonment unless
transferor had reason to believe juvenile would commit crime of violence
with gun or ammunition then up to 10 years imprisonment.
18 USC § 922(b). A firearms licensee faces up to 5 years imprisonment.
A. May not sell, deliver or transfer a handgun or handgun-only ammunition
to a person who is under age 18;
B. A person under age 18 may not possess a handgun or handgun-only ammunition;
(Certain exceptions apply to A & B, such as where juvenile possesses
written permission of a parent.);
C. A firearms licensee may not sell any gun or ammunition to anyone under
the age of 18 and may not sell a handgun or handgun ammunition to a person
under the age of 21.
DEFINITION OF "FIREARM":
Any weapon (including a starter gun) which will expel a projectile by means
of an explosive or is designed or may be readily converted to do so. This
includes the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any firearm muffler
or silencer or any destructive device.
A "destructive device" includes any explosive, incendiary or
poison gas — (i)bomb; (ii) grenade or (iii) similar device, or any
combination of parts designed or intended to be converted into a destructive
device, or from which a destructive device may be readily assembled. Does
not include black powder or antique type firearms. 18 USC §921(3).
Many of these offenses can also be prosecuted under state law, but the
punishments under federal law tend to be more severe. As a result, many
arrests for illegal firearms made by state or local law enforcement get
referred to the federal authorities for prosecution under federal law.
Thus, one should never assume that a state-level arrest for an illegal
firearm will not ultimately be prosecuted as a federal crime.
If you or a loved one have been arrested for a firearms offense, you should
contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately, such as
these attorneys available here.
18 U.S.C. § 922,
18 USC 922,
18 USC § 922(b),
18 USC § 922(d),
18 USC § 922(g),
18 USC § 922(k),
18 USC § 922(n),
18 USC § 922(o),
18 USC § 922(v),
18 USC § 922(x)(1),
18 USC § 924(c),
18 USC §922(g)(2)(A),
26 USC § 5861,
firearm in school zone crime,
firearm possession in furtherance of crime of violence,
firearm possession in furtherance of drug crime,
firearm sale to juvenile,