FEDERAL FIREARMS LAWS

Federal firearms laws restricting the right of individuals to possess firearms and ammunition (see definitions below) are contained under 18 U.S.C. sections 921 and 922. These laws are directed at specific categories of individuals and prohibit their possession of “any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.” These categories of individuals include, but are limited to, the following:

Convicted Felons:

18 U.S.C. section 922 (g)(1) states that any person “who has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” can not legally receive or possess a firearm or ammunition which has been transported (at any time) across state lines. Crimes punishable by more than a year in prison are generally felonies. This includes such convictions in any state or federal court.

The elements of the crime are:

  • Receive or possess
  • Firearm or ammunition
  • Transported across state lines
  • By convicted felon

Persons Under Indictment:

18 U.S.C. section 922 (n) states, “It shall be unlawful for any person who is under indictment for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce any firearm or ammunition or receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.” Thus, it is unlawful for a person who has been indicted for a felony, in state or federal court, to receive or possess a firearm or ammunition which, at any previous time, has been transported across state lines.

The elements of the crime are:

  • Receive or possess
  • Firearm or ammunition
  • Previously transported across state lines
  • By person under felony indictment

Fugitives From Justice:

18 U.S.C. section 922(g)(2) states that a person who is a fugitive from justice can not receive or possess a firearm or ammunition. A fugitive from justice (defined in 18 U.S.C. section 921(a)(15)) is a person who has fled across state lines to avoid arrest or to avoid testifying in a criminal proceeding.   

Persons Convicted of Domestic Violence:

18 U.S.C. section 922 (g)(9) prohibits any person who has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (see definition below) from receiving or possessing a firearm or ammunition which has been transported across state lines.

Persons Subject to a Domestic Violence Protective Order:

18 U.S.C. section 922 (g)(8) prohibits any person who is subject to a domestic violence protective/restraining order from receiving or possessing a firearm or ammunition which have, at any time, been transported across state lines. The court order must be issued after a court hearing for which the restrained person had actual notice and at which the restrained person had an opportunity to participate.  

Mentally Defective/Ill Persons:

18 U.S.C. section 922(g)(4) states that any person “who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution” is prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm or ammunition which has, at any time, been transported across state lines. “Committed to a mental institution” means a formal commitment by a court of law or other lawful authority.

Drug Users:

18 U.S.C. section 922 (g)(3) makes it illegal for any person who is an unlawful user of, or addicted to, any controlled substance to receive or possess a firearm or ammunition which has been transported across state lines. Controlled substance is defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. section 802.  

Aliens/Citizens of Foreign Countries:

18 U.S.C. section 922 (g)(5) prohibits certain classes of aliens (non-U.S. citizens) from receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition. This includes “illegal aliens” (undocumented) and lawfully admitted aliens who have been admitted under non-immigrant visas (not admitted for permanent residence). This prohibition does not include persons who have “green cards.”

Dishonorably Discharged From Armed Services:

18 U.S.C. section 922 (g)(6) prohibits persons who have been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions from receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition that have been transported across state lines.

Persons Who Have Renounced Citizenship:

18 U.S.C. section 922 (g)(7) prohibits persons who, having been a citizen of the United States, have renounced their citizenship from receiving or possessing a firearm or ammunition.

DEFINITIONS

Firearm:

18 U.S.C. section 921 (a)(3) defines “firearm” as “(A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon; (C) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or (D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.

Antique Firearm:

18 U.S.C. section 921 (a)(16) defines the term “antique firearm” as follows:

(A) any firearm (including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured in or before 1898; or

(B) any replica of any firearm described in subparagraph (A) if such replica—

(i) is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition, or

(ii) uses rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade; or

(C) any muzzle loading rifle, muzzle loading shotgun, or muzzle loading pistol, which is designed to use black powder, or a black powder substitute, and which cannot use fixed ammunition. For purposes of this subparagraph, the term “antique firearm” shall not include any weapon which incorporates a firearm frame or receiver, any firearm which is converted into a muzzle loading weapon, or any muzzle loading weapon which can be readily converted to fire fixed ammunition by replacing the barrel, bolt, breechblock, or any combination thereof.

Ammunition:

18 U.S.C. section 921 (a)(17)(A) defines  “ammunition” as “ammunition or cartridge cases, primers, bullets, or propellent powder designed for use in any firearm.”

Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence

18 U.S.C. section 921 (a)(33) defines “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” as follows:

A crime that is “a misdemeanor under federal, state, or tribal law; and has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon, committed by a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabiting with or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, parent, or guardian, or by a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim.”