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How Serious Is a Federal Gun Crime Charge?

By Hager & Schwartz, P.A.

July 20, 2022

Section 922 of the United States Code enumerates various types of firearms offenses. They range from giving a handgun or ammunition to a juvenile to using a gun to further a drug or violent crime. No matter the conduct, all federal gun crime charges are serious. Each carries the potential of a years-long term of incarceration and/or high fines. Additionally, some violations have mandatory minimums and enhanced sentences, which alleged offenders rarely find relief from.

If you have been charged with a federal weapons crime in Daytona Beach, reach out to a criminal defense attorney for help fighting the accusations.

Schedule a consultation with Hager & Schwartz, P.A. by calling (386) 693-1637 or submitting an online contact form today.

Types of Federal Gun Crimes

Federal law contains nearly two dozen provisions concerning firearms offenses. The conduct includes, but is not limited to, importing or dealing in firearms without a license, selling a gun to someone convicted of a crime carrying more than one year of imprisonment, and possessing a firearm in a school zone.

According to the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC), the primary statutes under which federal gun crimes are prosecuted include:

  • Unlawful receipt, possession, or transportation of explosive material
  • Unlawful receipt, possession, or transportation of firearms or ammunition
  • Possession of a firearm by a prohibited person
  • Arson or property damage by use of explosives
  • Use of firearms to further a drug or violent crime
  • Possession of a firearm in a federal facility or school zone

The USSC noted that just under 95% of federal firearms offenses involved the unlawful receipt, possession, or transportation of guns and ammunition. And about 67% involved the illegal possession of firearms.

Investigation and Prosecution of Federal Firearms Offenses

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigates alleged violations of any of the U.S. government’s gun laws. The agency is concerned with stopping violent, drug, and national and international firearm trafficking offenses. ATF agents, therefore, are thorough in their investigations. You can be sure that if they recommend that you be prosecuted for an alleged offense, they will have collected substantial evidence against you before turning over their case file to a U.S. Attorney.

Additionally, the government generally pursues gun crime charges when prosecuting violent crimes because firearms offenses are “quick and easy to prove.”

A conviction for a federal firearms crime comes with steep penalties.

The following are examples of the prison sentence lengths a judge can impose:

  • Possession of a firearm by a prohibited person: Up to 10 years
  • Knowingly transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm with the serial number removed or destroyed: Up to 5 years
  • Providing a handgun or ammunition to a juvenile: Up to 1 year

Mandatory Minimums for Federal Gun Crimes

In some cases, a judge can impose mandatory minimum terms of incarceration for a federal firearm offense.

Generally, mandatory minimums are allowed under two statutes:

  • 18 U.S.C. 924(c): This law provides that a judge must sentence a person to at least a certain number of years in prison if the individual is found guilty of using a firearm to further a drug or violent crime. The length of the prison term is based on the conduct and type of weapon involved. For instance, possessing a firearm during an offense requires a minimum of 5 years. But if the gun is displayed, the mandatory minimum increases to 7 years.
  • 18 U.S.C. 924(g): Referred to as the Armed Career Criminal Act, this law concerns prohibited persons who unlawfully possess a firearm and have three prior convictions for drug or violent offenses. Upon a subsequent finding of guilt, the individual must be sentenced to at least 15 years in prison.

The USSC notes that 8.5% of individuals charged with firearms crimes were convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum. Concerning convictions under Section 924(c), nearly 69% of offenders committed an offense carrying a 5-year minimum, 16.5% committed an offense carrying a 7-year minimum, and 14.5% committed an offense carrying a minimum sentence of at least 10 years.

The mandatory minimums for federal firearms crimes are in addition to those for the underlying offense and must run consecutively. The average term for a person sentenced under Section 924(c) is over 13 years. And the average for someone punished under the Armed Career Criminals Act is about 17 years. Because of the length of time mandatory minimums can add to someone’s sentence, federal prosecutors often use this potential penalty as leverage when plea bargaining with the defendant.

Discuss Your Case with Hager & Schwartz, P.A.

Being charged with a federal gun crime is serious. You face an intense investigation and severe penalties that can include lengthy mandatory minimum terms of incarceration. However, don’t lose hope in your case. An experienced lawyer can review the facts, uncover weaknesses in proof, and pursue a favorable outcome.

If you need legal representation in Daytona Beach, contact our team at (386) 693-1637.