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Federal Penalties For Firearms Misuse

Wednesday, July 28, 1999

In addition to federal gun laws imposed by the National Firearms Act (1934), the Gun Control Act (1968), the Firearms Owners' Protection Act (1986) among others, most states and many localities have their own firearm restrictions in place. There are currently more than 20,000 firearms laws in the U.S., clearly more than enough to punish criminals who misuse firearms, but the laws have to be enforced. The following highlights existing criminal penalties for violation of federal firearms laws:

  • It is crime punishable with 10-years imprisonment for anyone to alter a semi-automatic firearm to make it fire fully automatically.
  • It is a crime punishable with 10-years imprisonment for anyone to possess such an altered semi-automatic firearm.
  • It is a crime punishable with 10-years imprisonment for anyone to trade or sell such an altered semi-automatic firearm.
  • It is a crime punishable with 10-years imprisonment for a convicted felon to possess a any firearm.
  • The use of a firearm in a violent or drug-trafficking crime is punishable by a five-year mandatory prison sentence. A second conviction brings a 20-year mandatory sentence or life imprisonment without parole if the firearm is a machine gun or is equipped with a silencer.
  • It is a crime punishable by a mandatory 15-year imprisonment for a criminal with three prior violent or drug-related felonies to possess any firearm.
  • It is a crime punishable with 10-years imprisonment to transfer a firearm knowing that it will be used to commit a violent or drug-trafficking crime.
  • It is a crime punishable with 10-years imprisonment to transport or receive firearms or ammunition in interstate commerce with intent to commit a felony.
  • It is a crime punishable with 10-years imprisonment to shorten the barrel(s) of a shotgun to less than 18" or a rifle to less than 16".
  • It is a crime punishable with 10-years imprisonment to travel from one state to another and acquire, or attempt to acquire, a firearm with the intent to use it in a violent felony.
  • It is a crime punishable with 10-years imprisonment to alter the serial number of a firearm regulated by the National Firearms Act.
  • It is a crime punishable with 5-years imprisonment to possess a firearm with an altered serial number (or with 10-years imprisonment if the firearm is regulated by the National Firearms Act).

In addition to imprisonment, fines for violating federal firearms laws can be as high as $250,000. That's federal law now. Congress can't make it much more illegal for criminals to have or to use guns . . . any guns.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.