The right to bear arms is a heated and highly politicized issue within the United States and although we might frequently hear about gun crime, you might not know what defenses are available to you if you are ever charged with a gun offense.
Gun Law Basics
The laws governing guns in the United States are found in a number of federal statutes. These statutes regulate the manufacture, trade, possession, transfer, record keeping, transport, and destruction of firearms, ammunition, and firearms accessories. The gun industry is heavily regulated, both locally and nationally, and the government prosecutes gun charges forcefully. The body that enforces these laws is called the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Most Americans are well aware that the right to keep and bear arms is protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Types of Gun Crime
The most common examples of gun crimes include:
- possession of an unregistered weapon
- being pulled over with a loaded weapon that has never been registered or is stolen
- possession or sale of a machine gun
- possession of an assault weapon
There are other crimes that are enhanced when committed with the use of a weapon. For example, if a robbery was committed with a gun then the charge and punishment will be more severe than an unarmed robbery. Prior convictions involving weapons are also treated very seriously.
Individual states also have their own rules governing when a gun can be worn and if it can be concealed. Therefore, many people are simply not aware that even though they are permitted to carry weapons, there are certain prohibitions about concealing a weapon and certain places that are off limits.
The majority of gun and weapon charges can be laid as either felonies or misdemeanors and can be punished by a range of different sentences. If a defense is unavailable and you are convicted, a judge will consider the type of weapon used and your criminal history. Depending on the state, the judge will also consider whether your offense subjects you to any firearm sentencing enhancements, some of which can add up to 25 years on your sentence. An example of this is California’s “use a gun and you’re done” law. This law applies to 19 serious felonies such as murder and sex crimes. If it applies, offenders may be sentenced to 10 years in prison for using a gun, 20 for firing it, and 25 to life for killing or seriously injuring someone with the gun. This is in addition to the original sentence for the underlying felony.
When defending yourself against a gun charge, sometimes the simplest defense is proving that you were actually licensed to carry the weapon. If this is not applicable, your criminal defense lawyer can also try to prove that the gun did not belong to you, or was placed in your possession without your knowledge. As with drug charges, your defense attorney can also investigate how the police found the weapon in order to determine if they made any procedural mistakes such as conducting an illegal search. This would make the weapon inadmissible in court and prevent any enhancements.
If you have been charged with a gun offense and you would like to discuss any possible defenses, our attorneys at Gurovich, Berk & Associates are here to assist you. We invite you to call us today at (213) 385-1555 to arrange an initial consultation.