Varieties of Federal Firearm Offenses

Benson Varghese is an Accredited Criminal Defense Attorney with profound expertise in criminal law. Commencing his career as a prosecutor, he has dedicated the past ten years to defending individuals accused of criminal offenses. He has litigated more than a hundred cases before juries and has represented individuals facing various firearm-related charges.

Comprehending Federal Firearm Charges: An In-Depth Overview

Within the United States, the constitutional right to bear arms is safeguarded; nonetheless, this entitlement is subject to limitations and responsibilities. Federal regulations dictate firearm possession, usage, and permissible firearm types. Violations of these regulations can lead to severe consequences, including incarceration. In this article, we will delve into the intricate realm of federal firearm charges.

We will examine the various categories of violations, ranging from the unlawful possession of firearms by individuals prohibited from doing so to engaging in the business of firearms dealing without the requisite license. For each violation, we will furnish the relevant legal code section, a description of the offense, potential penalties, and potential legal defenses.

Whether you are a legal professional, a firearm owner, or simply someone seeking a deeper understanding of federal firearm regulations, this guide will offer a comprehensive overview of the subject matter. Nevertheless, it is imperative to recognize that this guide is a concise summary, and the actual legal statutes encompass additional specifics and exceptions. Always seek the counsel of a legal expert if you have specific inquiries or are confronting federal firearm charges.

Our Extensive Handbook on Federal Firearm Offenses

Federal Gun OffensePunishment Range
Possession of a Firearm or Ammunition by a Prohibited PersonUp to 10 years imprisonment
Selling, Giving, or Disposing of Any Firearm or Ammunition to a Prohibited PersonUp 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 ViolenceAt least 5 years up to life imprisonment, or death if death results from the use of the firearm
Stolen Firearm, Ammunition, or ExplosiveUp to 10 years imprisonment
Firearm in a School ZoneUp to 5 years imprisonment
Knowingly Possess or Manufacture Certain Types of FirearmsUp to 5 or 10 years imprisonment, depending on the specific violation
Sell, Deliver, or Transfer to a JuvenileUp 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 ExplosivesForfeiture of firearms, ammunition, or explosives
Engaging in the Business of Dealing in Firearms Without a LicenseUp to 5 years imprisonment

1. Ownership of a Firearm or Ammunition by an Ineligible Individual

Federal Code Section: 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) & (n)

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Description

Federal law prohibits specific individuals from shipping, transporting, possessing, or receiving any firearm or ammunition. These prohibited individuals include those with prior felony convictions, individuals who are drug users or addicts, non-U.S. citizens, persons subject to restraining orders, individuals previously convicted of domestic assault, fugitives from justice, and those dishonorably discharged from the military.

Punishment Range

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

Possible Defenses 

A potential defense may involve demonstrating that the person was unaware they possessed the firearm or ammunition, or that they met the exceptions outlined in the law, such as having their civil rights reinstated after a felony conviction.

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

Federal Code Section: 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)

Description

It is also a federal offense to sell or otherwise transfer any firearm or ammunition to an individual if you know or have reasonable cause to believe they fall within any of the categories described above.

Punishment Range

This means that if you sell a firearm or ammunition to an individual who, for example, is a convicted felon or a fugitive from justice, you could be sentenced to a maximum of ten years in prison.

Possible Defenses 

A potential defense may involve showing that the person had no knowledge or reason to believe that the recipient was a prohibited individual.

3. Use, Carry, or Possess A Firearm Concerning Or In Furtherance of a Drug Felony or a Federal Crime of Violence

Federal Code Section: 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)

Description

It is illegal to possess, carry, or use a firearm during and in relation to, or for the purpose of advancing a drug trafficking crime or a violent federal offense.

Punishment Range

The penalties for this crime range from a minimum of five years to a life sentence without the possibility of parole. If a fatality results from firearm use, the defendant could potentially face the death penalty.

Possible Defenses 

A potential defense may involve demonstrating that the firearm was not used in connection with a drug felony or a federal violent crime. For instance, the firearm may not have been present at the time of the crime.

4. Stolen Firearm, Ammunition, or Explosive Code Section

Federal Code Section: 18 U.S.C. § 922(j), (k), (l), & (u)

Description

It is a federal offense 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 transported across state or international borders. It is also unlawful to steal or unlawfully take or remove a firearm from a firearms licensee’s premises or possession.

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Punishment Range

A person found guilty of this crime could face a maximum sentence of up to ten years in prison.

Possible Defenses 

A potential defense may involve showing that the person was unaware that the firearm, ammunition, or explosive was stolen.

5. Firearm in a School Zone

Federal Code Section: 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)

Description

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

Punishment Range

A person found guilty of this crime could face a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison.

Possible Legal Defenses for Possession or Discharge of Firearms in School Zones

A potential defense may involve demonstrating that the person was unaware of being in a school zone or that they had legal authorization to possess the firearm in the school zone.

6. Knowingly Possess or Manufacture Certain Types of Firearms

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

Description

It is illegal to knowingly possess or manufacture specific categories of firearms, including machine guns, firearm silencers, sawed-off shotguns, sawed-off rifles, destructive devices, semi-automatic assault weapons produced after October 1, 1993, and firearms lacking serial numbers or containing altered or obliterated serial numbers.

Punishment Range

If found guilty of this crime, a person could face imprisonment for up to five or ten years, depending on the specific violation.

Possible Defenses

A potential defense may involve showing that the person was unaware that the firearm they possessed or manufactured fell into one of the prohibited categories.

7. Sell, Deliver, or Transfer to a Juvenile

Federal Code Section: 18 U.S.C. § 922(x)

Description

It is a federal offense to sell, deliver, or transfer a handgun or handgun-only ammunition to an individual under the age of 18. It is also illegal for a person under the age of 18 to possess a handgun or handgun-only ammunition. Exceptions exist, such as when the minor possesses written permission from a parent.

Punishment Range

A person found guilty of this crime could face a maximum sentence of up to one year. However, if the transferor had reason to believe that the minor would use the firearm or ammunition to commit a violent crime, the sentence could be up to ten years in prison.

Possible Defenses 

A potential defense may involve demonstrating that the person did not know the recipient was a minor or that one of the exceptions provided in the law applied.

8. Forfeiture of Firearms, Ammunition, and Explosives

Federal Code Section: 18 U.S.C. § 924(d)

Description

This section of the law authorizes the seizure and forfeiture of firearms, ammunition, and explosives connected to criminal offenses.

Punishment Range

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

Possible Defenses 

A potential defense may involve showing that the firearms, ammunition, or explosives were not linked to a criminal offense.

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

Federal Code Section: 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)

Description

It is a federal offense for any individual, except a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer, to participate in the business of importing, manufacturing, or dealing in firearms.

Punishment Range

A person found guilty of this crime could face a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison.

Possible Defenses

A potential defense may involve showing that the person was not conducting the “business” of dealing in firearms as defined by the law, but instead, they were making occasional sales or exchanges as part of a personal collection or hobby.

Please be aware that this guide is a summary, and the actual law contains more details and exceptions. Always seek advice from a legal expert if you are facing federal firearm-related charges.

Johnny Thompson

Johnny Thompson is a senior reporter for Generator Research in Los Angeles, reporting on technology, business, finances, and more. He previously worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

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