Federal Criminal Laws on Firearms Explained by Defense Attorney

The Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms, but that does not mean there are no restrictions on the right to sell weapons, own weapons, or possess weapons. In fact, there are many state and federal regulations related to gun ownership and there are serious penalties for violating those laws.

When you are accused of violating weapons laws, you’ll need to understand what specific laws you’re accused of breaking and what prosecutors need to prove in order to secure a conviction against you.

Many weapons laws are federal laws and being charged with a federal crime can have far more serious consequences than being charged with a state offense.

That means you need to ensure you’re proactive about responding to charges – and you need the right attorney to help.

A federal criminal defense attorney at LV Criminal Defense can represent you when you’re accused of federal weapons crimes if you live in Arizona, California, Utah, Nevada, or surrounding areas.

Our firm has the knowledge and experience necessary to develop a strategic response to charges, to negotiate plea agreements, and to fight for acquittal in court. To find out more about how our firm can help you fight federal weapons charges, give us a call today.

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Nick Wooldridge has a long track record of representing clients accused of serious federal and state crimes in Nevada.


Federal Laws On Firearms

18 U.S. Code Chapter 44 is the part of the federal penal code that deals with offenses related to firearms. There are 15 different statutes in Chapter 44 of Title 18, and these statutes establish definitions used in the chapter, explain what types of acts are considered unlawful, provide details on required licensing, and impose criminal penalties for unlawful behavior. The statutes found within Chapter 44 include:

  • 18 U.S. Code section 921: Definitions
  • 18 U.S. Code section 922: Unlawful acts
  • 18 U.S. Code section 923: Licensing
  • 18 U.S. Code section 924: Penalties
  • 18 U.S. Code section 925: Exceptions: Relief from disabilities
  • 18 U.S. Code section 925A: Remedy for erroneous denial of firearm
  • 18 U.S. Code section 926: Rules and regulations
  • 18 U.S. Code section 926A: Interstate transportation of firearms
  • 18 U.S. Code section 926B: Carrying of concealed firearms by qualified law enforcement officers
  • 18 U.S. Code section 926C: Carrying of concealed firearms by qualified retired law enforcement officers
  • 18 U.S. Code section 927: Effect on State law
  • 18 U.S. Code section 928: Separability
  • 18 U.S. Code section 929: Use of restricted ammunition
  • 18 U.S. Code section 930: Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in Federal facilities
  • 18 U.S. Code section 931: Prohibition on purchase, ownership, or possession of body armor by violent felons

Each of the different statutes within 18 U.S. Code Chapter 44 provide details relevant to determining what types of acts related to firearms can result in federal charges. For example, 18 U.S. Code section 922 defines unlawful acts related to firearms. These include:

  • Engaging in the business of importing, dealing, manufacturing, shipping or receiving firearms without a valid license.
  • Engaging in the business of important, dealing, manufacturing, shipping, or receiving ammunition without a license.
  • Shipping or transporting a firearm as a licensed dealer to any person other than a licensed dealer, manufacturer, or collector except in limited circumstances such as returning the weapon to a person who it is received from or transmitting the weapon to an officer, employee, or watchman who is eligible to receive such items through the mail.
  • Transporting or receiving firearms purchased outside of the state without a valid license to manufacture, import, or deal in firearms unless the firearm is lawfully required in another state by bequest or intestate succession and the firearm is one that can legally be possessed in the state it is transported to.
  • Transporting destructive devices, machine guns, short-barrel shot guns and certain other prohibited weapons in interstate or foreign commerce without a valid license as an importer, manufacturer, dealer, or collector with authorization to transport such a weapon.

These are just some of many different examples of unlawful acts connected with firearms.

If a defendant is accused of violating any of the laws associated with firearms that could result in federal charges, it is important to understand the specific regulation that the defendant has been accused of violating as well as the elements of the offense that a prosecutor has to prove. If every element of an offense cannot be proved, the defendant should be acquitted.

Firearm Trafficking Charges

In the United States, there is no specific statute that makes trafficking in guns a criminal act. However, this does not mean that defendants cannot be charged with related offenses, such as transporting or receiving firearms out of state without having a valid license. In fact, defendants could be prosecuted for trafficking under several different sections of 18 U.S. Code section 922, which defines unlawful acts in connection with firearms.

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18 U.S. Code section 922 prohibits anyone except licensed manufacturers, importers, or dealers to import, manufacture, or ship firearms in foreign or interstate commerce. An unlicensed dealer or even an individual who moves or sends guns across state lines could be in violation of this federal statute and could thus be charged with a gun trafficking offense as a result of moving weapons to those with no licenses.  

The same statute even prohibits manufacturing or importing ammunition and shipping, transporting, or receiving ammunition in interstate commerce without a license, so a defendant could be charged with a trafficking offense related to ammunition even without actually moving guns.

Shipping or transporting firearms to people other than licensed importers, manufacturers, dealers, or collectors can result in charges as well. In fact, 18 U.S. Code section 922 not only deals with the movement or manufacture of guns without proper licensing, but also criminalizes straw purchases where guns are purchased solely for the purpose of providing them to someone who could not purchase them on his or her own. Many defendants accused of trafficking are charged under statutes prohibiting straw purchases because the weapons are purchased , transported, and provided illegally to those without authority to have them.

Harsh penalties can be imposed for gun trafficking when defendants are charged with prohibited acts under 18 U.S. Code section 922. However, because there is no clear federal law defining exactly what gun trafficking is, detailing elements of trafficking offenses, and establishing penalties specific to traffickers, cases in which prosecutors pursue charges for gun trafficking can be complicated.  

A federal criminal defense lawyer familiar with the provisions of 18 U.S. Code Chapter 44 can help defendants to understand the types of gun laws that alleged traffickers are prosecuted under, as well as defenses that are available and penalties that could be imposed if convicted.

Resources on Firearms

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
90 K Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 648-8010

FBINational Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)
Bureau of PrisonsInmate Locator

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Getting help from a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

You don’t want to lose your freedom, your future, or your right to bear arms, so when you are accused of an offense related to firearms, you should reach out to LV Criminal Defense right away. Through decades of experience representing clients in California, Arizona, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, and surrounding areas, we have learned how best to help clients charged with federal crimes – and you can benefit from the scope and breadth of our experience.

Our firm has unparalleled knowledge of how prosecutors investigate and present evidence in cases involving firearms. We can work closely with you to determine what a prosecutor has to prove and to introduce reasonable doubt so the prosecutor cannot prove the case to a sufficient degree of certainty to earn conviction. We can also provide advice on when it’s best to plead guilty and can help with the negotiation of a favorable plea agreement in appropriate circumstances.

Whether in the courtroom or during settlement negotiations, LV Criminal Defense puts your interests first and provides the representation you need and deserve to reduce the likelihood of a guilty verdict or serious penalties.

To find out more about the ways in which our firm helps you take action to protect your future when you’ve been accused of firearms crimes, give us a call today.