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Understanding Federal Gun Charges: A Comprehensive Guide

In the United States, the right to bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution. However, this right is not without its limits and responsibilities. Federal laws regulate who can possess firearms, how they can be used, and what types of firearms are permissible. Violations of these laws can result in serious penalties, including imprisonment. In this blog post, we delve into the complex world of federal gun charges.

We’ll explore the different types of offenses, from possession of a firearm by a prohibited person to engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license. For each offense, we’ll provide the relevant code section, a description of the crime, the potential punishment range, and possible defenses.

Why You Should Listen to Us?

Benson Varghese is a Board Certified Criminal Lawyer and an expert in criminal law. He began his career as a prosecutor and has been dedicated to the defense of individuals accused of crimes over the last decade. He has tried over 100 cases to juries and represented individuals accused with a variety of gun charges. 

Whether you’re a legal professional, a gun owner, or simply someone interested in understanding more about federal gun laws, this guide will provide a comprehensive overview of the topic. However, it’s important to remember that this guide is a summary and the actual law contains more details and exceptions. Always consult with a legal expert if you have specific questions or are facing federal gun charges.

Our Comprehensive Guide to Federal Gun Charges

Let’s get started with our comprehensive guide to federal gun charges.

Federal Gun Offense Punishment Range
Possession of a Firearm or Ammunition by a Prohibited Person Up to 10 years imprisonment
Selling, Giving, or Disposing of Any Firearm or Ammunition to a Prohibited Person Up to 10 years imprisonment
Use, Carry, or Possess a Firearm in Relation to or in Furtherance of a Drug Felony or a Federal Crime of Violence At least 5 years up to life imprisonment, or death if death results from the use of the firearm
Stolen Firearm, Ammunition, or Explosive Up to 10 years imprisonment
Firearm in a School Zone Up to 5 years imprisonment
Knowingly Possess or Manufacture Certain Types of Firearms Up to 5 or 10 years imprisonment, depending on the specific violation
Sell, Deliver, or Transfer to a Juvenile Up to 1 year imprisonment, or up to 10 years if the transferor had reason to believe the juvenile would commit a crime of violence
Forfeiture of Firearms, Ammunition, and Explosives Forfeiture of firearms, ammunition, or explosives
Engaging in the Business of Dealing in Firearms Without a License Up to 5 years imprisonment

Possession of a Firearm or Ammunition by a Prohibited Person

Federal Code Section

18 U.S.C. § 922(g) & (n)

Understanding Possession of a Firearm or Ammunition by a Prohibited Person

Federal law prohibits certain individuals from shipping, transporting, possessing, or receiving any firearm or ammunition. These individuals include those who have been convicted of a felony, those who are drug users or addicts, aliens, individuals who are the subject of restraining orders, individuals with prior convictions for domestic assault, fugitives from justice, and those who have been dishonorably discharged from the military.

Punishment Range for Possession of a Firearm or Ammunition by a Prohibited Person

If a person in any of these categories is found to be in possession of a firearm or ammunition, they could face up to 10 years in prison. 

Possible Defenses to Possession of a Firearm or Ammunition by a Prohibited Person

A potential defense could be that the person was not aware they were in possession of the firearm or ammunition, or that they fall under one of the exceptions provided in the law, such as having had their civil rights restored after a felony conviction.

Selling, Giving, or Disposing of Any Firearm or Ammunition to a Prohibited Person

Code Section

18 U.S.C. § 922(d)

Selling, Giving, or Disposing of Any Firearm or Ammunition to a Prohibited Person Explained 

It is also a federal offense to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person if you know or have reasonable cause to believe that the person falls within any of the categories listed above.

Punishment Range for Selling, Giving, or Disposing of Any Firearm or Ammunition to a Prohibited Person

This means that if you sell a firearm or ammunition to a person who is, for example, a convicted felon or a fugitive from justice, you could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

Possible Defenses to Selling, Giving, or Disposing of Any Firearm or Ammunition to a Prohibited Person

A potential defense could be that the person did not know, and had no reason to believe, that the recipient was a prohibited person.

Use, Carry, or Possess a Firearm in Relation to or in Furtherance of a Drug Felony or a Federal Crime of Violence

Code Section

18 U.S.C. § 924(c)

Use, Carry, or Possess a Firearm in Relation to or in Furtherance of a Drug Felony or a Federal Crime of Violence Explained

It is unlawful to use, carry, or possess a firearm during and in relation to, or possess a firearm in furtherance of, a drug trafficking crime or a crime of violence.

Punishment Range for Use,How the feds prosecute gun cases Carry, or Possess a Firearm in Relation to or in Furtherance of a Drug Felony or a Federal Crime of Violence

The punishment for this crime ranges from at least 5 years up to life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole. If death results from the use of a firearm, the person could face the death penalty.

Possible Defenses to Use, Carry, or Possess a Firearm in Relation to or in Furtherance of a Drug Felony or a Federal Crime of Violence

A potential defense could be that the firearm was not used in relation to or in furtherance of a drug felony or a federal crime of violence. For example, the firearm was not present at the time of the crime.

Stolen Firearm, Ammunition, or Explosive

Code Section

18 U.S.C. § 922(j), (k), (l), & (u)

Stolen Firearm, Ammunition, or Explosive Explained

It is a federal crime to receive, possess, conceal, store, pledge, accept as security for a loan, barter, sell, or dispose of any stolen firearm, ammunition, or explosive that has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce. It is also a crime to steal or unlawfully take or carry away a firearm from the person or premises of a firearms licensee.

Punishment Range for Stolen Firearm, Ammunition, or Explosive

If a person is found guilty of this crime, they could face up to 10 years in prison.

Possible Defenses

A potential defense could be that the person did not know that the firearm, ammunition, or explosive was stolen.

5. Firearm in a School Zone

Code Section

18 U.S.C. § 922(q)

Description

Federal law makes it a crime to possess or discharge a firearm in a school zone.

Punishment Range

If a person is found guilty of this crime, they could face up to 5 years in prison.

Possible Defenses

A potential defense could be that the person did not know they were in a school zone, or that they were authorized to possess the firearm in the school zone under the law.

6. Knowingly Possess or Manufacture Certain Types of Firearms

Code Section

18 U.S.C. § 922(a), (b), (o), (v), & (w)

Description

It is unlawful to knowingly possess or manufacture certain types of firearms. These include machine guns, firearm silencers, sawed-off shotguns, sawed-off rifles, destructive devices, semi-automatic assault weapons manufactured after October 1, 1993, and any firearm which lacks a serial number or contains an altered or obliterated serial number.

Punishment Range

If a person is found guilty of this crime, they could face up to 5 or 10 years in prison, depending on the specific violation.

Possible Defenses

A potential defense could be that the person did not know that the firearm they possessed or manufactured fell into one of the prohibited categories.

7. Sell, Deliver, or Transfer to a Juvenile

Code Section

18 U.S.C. § 922(x)

Description

It is a federal crime to sell, deliver, or transfer a handgun or handgun-only ammunition to a person who is under the age of 18. It is also a crime for a person under the age of 18 to possess a handgun or handgun-only ammunition. There are certain exceptions to this law, such as when the juvenile has written permission from a parent.

Punishment Range

If a person is found guilty of this crime, they could face up to 1 year in prison. However, if the person who transferred the gun or ammunition had reason to believe the juvenile would commit a crime of violence with the gun or ammunition, the sentence could be up to 10 years in prison.

Possible Defenses

A potential defense could be that the person did not know the recipient was a juvenile, or that one of the exceptions provided in the law applies.

8. Forfeiture of Firearms, Ammunition, and Explosives

Code Section

18 U.S.C. § 924(d)

Description

This section of the law authorizes the seizure and forfeiture of firearms, ammunition, and explosives that are involved in criminal offenses.

Punishment Range

The punishment for this crime is the forfeiture of the firearms, ammunition, or explosives.

Possible Defenses

A potential defense could be that the firearms, ammunition, or explosives were not involved in a criminal offense.

9. Engaging in the Business of Dealing in Firearms Without a License

Code Section

18 U.S.C. § 922(a)

Description

It is a federal crime for any person, except a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer, to engage in the business of importing, manufacturing, or dealing in firearms.

Punishment Range

If a person is found guilty of this crime, they could face up to 5 years in prison.

Possible Defenses

A potential defense could be that the person was not “engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms as defined by the law, but was instead making occasional sales or exchanges as part of a personal collection or hobby.

Please note that this guide is a summary and the actual law contains more details and exceptions. Always consult with a legal expert if you are facing federal gun charges.

Varghese Summersett is a premier criminal defense firm based in Fort Worth, Texas. Our attorneys focus exclusively on criminal law and represent clients charged with crimes at both the state and federal level. We handle everything from DWI to capital murder to white collar crime. Collectively, our attorneys bring together more than 100 years of criminal law experience and have tried more than 550 cases before Texas juries. All of our senior attorneys served as former state or federal prosecutors and four are Board Certified in Criminal law, the highest designation an attorney can reach. We are the firm people turn to when the stakes are high and they are facing the biggest problem in their lives. - Contact Varghese at  
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