With the proper license, it’s possible to open or concealed carry a gun in North Carolina, and you can transport a firearm in your car under certain circumstances. However, it’s also important to remember that there are federal firearms laws. These statutes are far more restrictive, and carry harsh penalties if you’re convicted. If you’ve been arrested for violation of any U.S. firearms statutes, hiring federal gun charge lawyers should be a top priority.
At Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys, we focus on all areas of criminal defense, including the harsh laws regarding firearms. We’re knowledgeable in the legal issues that affect your rights, and we’re prepared to present all available defenses to the charges. Please contact our office to speak to one of our federal lawyers in Charlotte, NC. To schedule a free consultation of your case, contact us today at (980) 237-4579.
Overview of Federal Gun Charges
Firearms statutes at the federal level center on possession, your status or history, your conduct, prohibited zones, or a combination of these factors. The most impactful federal laws that affect gun charges are:
The National Firearms Act
This law was passed in 1934 as a response to gangland murders and the range of weapons used in connection with them. It restricts the sale and possession of certain types of firearms, including short-barreled shotguns, machine guns, and certain silencers.
The Gun Control Act of 1968
Prompted by the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this statute governs licensing, defines firearms crimes, and prohibits the sale of guns to certain individuals.
Additional laws that are related to these two statutes, or incorporated within them, include:
- The Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act of 1993
- The Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986
- The NICS Improvement Act of 2008
Together, these federal laws cover registration, waiting periods, background checks, transfers of firearms, and many other gun-related topics. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), a federal law enforcement agency falling under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Justice, enforces these statutes.
Status-Related Federal Gun Charges
Aside from offenses related to unlawful types of firearms or ammunition, there are possession crimes that apply based upon your status or history. One common crime is possession of a firearm by a felon. In addition, your status matters for possession purposes if:
- You’re an illegal alien in possession of a firearm
- There’s a warrant for your arrest, and you’re a fugitive from justice
- You illegally use controlled substances
- You’ve been adjudicated as mentally incapacitated
- You were dishonorably discharged from any branch of the U.S. Military
- You were a U.S. citizen and renounced your citizenship
- You are the subject of a restraining order regarding a current or former spouse, intimate partner, a child of your partner, or your own children
- You’ve been convicted of domestic violence, even if the underlying offense was a misdemeanor
You could be incarcerated for up to 10 years if you’re convicted of unlawfully possessing a firearm while you’re considered a prohibited person. However, you may receive a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years imprisonment if you’ve been convicted on three or more violent felony convictions.
Federal Gun Charges in Connection with Criminal Activity
While possession alone can lead to arrest if you’re prohibited from owning a firearm, using a weapon to commit or attempt to commit a crime can also lead to mandatory minimum sentencing. The details depend on your specific circumstances, but under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1), a conviction for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime or drug trafficking could mean:
- Five years’ imprisonment for simple possession
- At least seven years’ imprisonment for displaying a firearm
- Ten years mandatory minimum sentence for discharging a gun
Keep in mind that there are harsher penalties for a second offense, so you face at least a 25-year sentence if convicted. Plus, there’s a mandatory minimum of 10 years’ incarceration if the firearm is a short-barreled shotgun, machine gun, or weapon with a silencer.
Additional Federal Gun Laws and Special Zones
There are several additional federal gun laws, so you should discuss your case with a federal gun charge attorney to ensure no detail goes uncovered. Other U.S. statutes that cover gun-related topics include:
- Transporting or shipping firearms across state lines
- Possession of a firearm in a school zone, in violation of the Gun-Free School Zones Act
- Carrying a firearm at an airport, unless you’ve complied with all laws for transportation
- Having a gun on your person on federal property
Defenses to a Federal Weapons Charge
Though these firearms laws are strict and the penalties are extremely harsh, there may be defenses available in your case. A prosecutor must prove that you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a very heavy burden. A skilled federal gun charge lawyer can identify weaknesses and exploit them, preventing the prosecution from meeting this high standard. Plus, there may be additional defenses, such as:
- You weren’t in actual or constructive possession of a firearm
- You have the proper permit to carry a gun, and didn’t otherwise violate firearms laws
- You weren’t convicted of drug trafficking, which could be a defense to possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking
- Law enforcement violated your right against unlawful search and seizure
- Other defenses based upon your circumstances