What Constitutes a Federal Firearms Offense?

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (Greenfield & Zawitz, 1995), a Firearm Offense under Federal law is a “violation of statutes or regulations that control deadly weapons.” Included in this definition are…

  • Firearms
  • Ammunition
  • Silencers
  • Explosives
  • Certain knives

According to that same source, about 2% of Federal arrests are for Federal Firearms violations.
There are numerous specific offenses which constitute a Federal Firearms Offense. The defense chosen will depend largely on which specific Federal Firearms Offense has been charged. For a complete list of Federal Firearms Offenses, click here.

  1. Transfer Offenses occur when a transfer of a firearm has occurred. These offenses are generally issued when fraud has occurred, whether on the part of the purchaser or on the part of the seller. Specifically, some of the charges which one may face in this category include:
    • Falsification of a written or oral statement regarding the legality of a purchase
    • Giving or selling a weapon to a person known/suspected of belonging to a group restricted from possessing firearms
    • Failing to report the transfer (sale or gift) to another
  2. Prohibited Persons Offenses occur when a person makes a transfer (meaning sale or gift) to a person who is a known
    • convicted felon
    • Fugitive
    • Adjudicated “mental defective”
    • Unlawful user of controlled substances
    • Dishonorably discharged service personnel
    • Illegal alien
    • Those who have renounced their U.S. citizenship
    • Any found guilty of misdemeanor domestic violence or subject to a restraining order involving domestic violence
  3. Using or Carrying a Firearm During Crime of Violence or Drug Trafficking charges
  4. Exporting Firearms without a Valid License
  5. Some common guideline offenses which occur out-of-doors and carry stronger sentences include…
    • Possession of Firearm During Commission of Drug Offense – Adds two offense levels to the recommended sentence.
    • Robbery – Adds three to seven offense levels to the recommended sentence. Was the weapon “brandished” “used” or “discharged?” Add more. Stating to victims “I have a gun” constitutes a threat of death and an additional two offense levels added to the sentence.
    • Offenses Involving Counterfeit Bearer Obligations of the U.S. – These include currency, coins, postage stamps, and other such items. The use of a weapon during the commission of crimes involving such items increases sentencing by two offense levels and guarantees a minimum offense level 13. That is, if the sentence recommendation falls short of Level 13 for any reason, the charges are raised to that level because of the inclusion of weapon (USSC, 2013).

Can I be Convicted of a Federal Firearms Offense if my Partner was the Only One with a Weapon?

“Defendants are not usually(italics ours) held accountable under section 924(c) for
firearms that they did not personally use or carry, although there is no legal
impediment to holding them criminally liable under the law of conspiracy for an
accomplice’s foreseeable use or possession of a firearm during the conspiracy to
commit the crime of violence or drug trafficking crime.”

– United States Sentencing Commission (USSC, 2013)

The short answer to that question is no. The long answer is sometimes.

Depending on the circumstances of the crime, the instigating event, defendants are “not usually” held to the same standard as the person actively carrying the weapon. But they could, under extreme circumstances. If there is any question that you may also have Federal Firearms charges added, get in touch with Attorney Jason A. Korner can help. But waste no time. The sooner you know of the possibility of Federal Firearms charges the sooner we should know.

What are the Possible Penalties if Convicted of a Federal Firearms Offense?

Perhaps no other topic is of greater concern to anyone facing a Federal Firearms Offense than sentencing. The penalty is the most feared phase of any trial and at the Law Offices of Jason A. Korner, we hear more questions related to the possible penalties than any other. So here is the long and short of it.

Penalties, that is the sentences rendered in Federal Firearms offenses range from 1 year to 30 or more, including death according to the Firearms Offenses Cheat Sheet. For instance, something as simple as “Knowingly in possession of firearm in federal facility” carries only 1 year. However, “knowingly making a sale to a prohibited person” will produce a 10-year sentence if found guilty. Finally, and we do mean final, “Causing death during § 924(c) violation” carries a possible death sentence.

“41 States have mandatory minimum sentences to prison for certain weapons offenses such as using a firearm in the commission of a felony. Also, some State statutes permit judges to enhance or lengthen an offender’s sentence for a crime committed with a deadly weapon.” (Greenfield & Zawitz, 1995).

Thus, there is no simple answer to the question of penalties sentenced if found guilty. At the Law Offices of Jason A. Korner, we will gladly explain what you may be facing, but moving forward we will focus on your not-guilty verdict. Our job is to provide you with the most vigorous defense possible and that is what we will do for you.
What Are Defenses to Federal Firearms Offenses?

Speaking of Defenses to Federal Firearms Offenses, some of the possibilities include…

  • Legal Justification for Possession by virtue of duress, necessity, or self-defense… otherwise knowns as a self-defense strategy. Essentially, if there was a justified reason for the use of the firearm in question, the charges may be dropped.
  • Entrapment. If the defendant can prove that the government played a direct role in setting the scene from which the charges stemmed, then this may be a valid defense.
  • “Knowing possession.” The defendant charged with the Federal Weapons Charge will be assumed to have known about the existence and location of the weapon in question but the Federal Prosecutor has the job of proving such knowledge. Without prior knowledge of the weapon, there may not be a crime.
  • Actual, constructive, joint, or sole possession. It just be further proven that the defendant had the weapon in question in his/her physical possession at a point prior to or concurrent with the commission of the crime. Did the defendant come into possession of the weapon after the commission of the crime? Why?

If any of these elements are not soundly provable, reasonable doubt may be proven and the defendant found Not-Guilty.

“A defendant is entitled to an instruction as to any recognized defense for which there exists evidence sufficient for a reasonable jury to find in his favor.” – Mathews v. United States

Facing a Federal Firearms Offense? Call Criminal Defense Attorney Jason Korner Now!

At the Law Offices of Jason A. Korner, we will explore the most vigorous defense possible for our clients. We will explore any reasonable avenue by which our client may return to his/her old life. Thus, whereas the above defenses are the most common used in Federal Firearms cases, we will use whatever strategy is in your interest.

Experience • Knowledge • Compassion
Free Consultation: 314-409-2659

We are easy to find in downtown St. Louis, MO. At 7911 Forsyth Blvd. Just look for the building with a little “xtra.” Then come see us on the third floor. As you may have guessed, we provide a free consultation and a compassionate ear. We’ll listen first, but then we fight…for you.

Useful Resources
  1. United States Sentencing Commission. (USSC, 2013). Firearms Offenses Handbook. (http://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/training/primers/Primer_Firearms.pdf)
  2. Greenfeld, L.A. and Zawitz, M.W. Statisticians. (Nov1995). BJS Selected Findings. Firearms, Crime, and Criminal Justice: Weapons Offenses and Offenders. Bureau of Justice Statistics. U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from: http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/woofccj.pdf).
  3. OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY DISTRICT (OUSAD) OF MAINE (SEPT2010). Summary of Federal Firearms Laws. Retrieved on 5May2016 from: http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/usao-me/legacy/2012/06/01/Summary%20of%20Federal%20Firearms%20Laws%20-%202010.pdf