In the United States, firearms regulations exist at both the state and federal level. While the U.S. government has established national laws regarding the possession, sale or manufacture of firearms, individual states, including North Carolina, have also enacted their own specific prohibitions and penalties.
However, when a gun charge rises to the federal level, the stakes involved in a potential conviction are much higher. In addition to staggering fines and the increased possibility of long-term imprisonment, federal firearms offenses may involve mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines and enhanced penalties that can easily lead to a life derailed.
Examples of federal weapons offenses
From falsifying registration information to possessing restricted firearms, there is a range of weapons charges that may result in a federal case under the National Firearms Act. In addition to knowingly providing incorrect information when completing a background check, federal weapons offenses may include:
- Firearm possession by “prohibited persons”: including convicted felons, residents without legal immigration status, individuals subject to domestic protection orders and those with a history of controlled substance abuse
- Purchase or possession of a firearm lacking a valid serial number: including both the alteration or removal of a manufacturer’s identifying code or the buying or selling of a firearm without the original serial number imprint
- The possession of restricted weapons: including machine guns made after May 19, 1986, short-barreled shotguns, rifles and silencers
Individuals who fail to comply with NFA requirements may face a maximum fine of $10,000, 10 years’ imprisonment or both.
Enhanced penalties when violence or drug trafficking charges involve firearms
When an individual uses a firearm while committing a potential crime of violence or drug trafficking offense, enhanced penalties may include stiff minimum sentencing guidelines under Section 924(c) of the U.S. statutory code. In addition to sentencing for underlying drug or violence charges, such weapons offenses may result in:
- A minimum of 5 years’ imprisonment for firearm possession
- A minimum of 7 years’ imprisonment for brandishing a firearm
- A minimum of 10 years’ imprisonment for discharging a firearm
Additionally, any subsequent 924(c) offenses carry a minimum sentence of 25 years’ imprisonment with the potential for imprisonment for life.