Unlawful firearm trafficking occurs when firearms are intentionally transported, sold, or transferred across state or international borders without adherence to legal procedures. This conduct includes selling firearms without a license or to individuals prohibited by law from owning a firearm, such as convicted felons.
Moreover, the penalties associated with firearm trafficking can be severe and significantly impact one's future. Penalties can include extensive imprisonment, substantial fines, and a lifelong criminal record that can affect employment opportunities, social relationships, and fundamental civil rights.
For these reasons, it is paramount to obtain robust legal representation when facing federal weapons charges.
At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, we have a deep understanding of federal laws and extensive experience in the courtroom. We can navigate the complex legal system and advocate fiercely for our clients in Los Angeles. Contact us at (800) 462-7160.
Federal Laws on Firearm Trafficking
The Gun Control Act of 1968 has long been a cornerstone of federal regulations regarding firearms. It addresses several critical aspects, such as restricting certain individuals from possessing firearms or ammunition and making it illegal to knowingly provide a firearm to someone prohibited. However, it lacked specific provisions related to firearm trafficking until the recent legislative change.
The federal gun trafficking law, introduced in June 2022 through the Safer Communities Act signed by President Joe Biden, brought substantial amendments to the Gun Control Act. The new legal framework now includes provisions addressing federal firearm trafficking under 18 U.S.C. § 933 and straw purchases of firearms under 18 U.S.C. § 932.
Trafficking in Firearms
Section 933 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code is crucial to this legal update. It explicitly forbids the shipping, transportation, transfer, or disposal of a firearm to another person when the actor knows or reasonably should know that the recipient's firearm possession would constitute a felony.
Moreover, the new law makes it illegal to knowingly accept a firearm from someone else when such acceptance would result in a felony.
Straw Purchasing of Firearms
Firearm trafficking often involves a tactic known as straw purchasing, which poses a significant challenge to law enforcement and public safety. In a straw purchase scenario, an individual legally eligible to buy a firearm purchases one on behalf of someone who is not, effectively acting as an intermediary in acquiring the weapon. Existing laws have long prohibited such practices, but a crucial legal update in Section 932 has introduced more rigorous prohibitions to combat this clandestine activity.
Under Section 932, it is explicitly stated that a person cannot lawfully purchase a firearm that affects interstate or foreign commerce on behalf of another individual.
The actor must know or reasonably should know that the recipient falls into one or more of these categories:
- The recipient is prohibited from owning a firearm under federal law.
- The firearm is intended to be used in the commission of a felony.
- The firearm is intended for transfer to someone else who will engage in either of the criteria above.
This legal amendment targets straw purchasing at its core, making it unlawful for anyone to knowingly participate in such transactions that facilitate the acquisition of firearms for individuals who are legally barred from owning them or for criminal purposes.
Penalties for Violations
Regarding violations related to firearm trafficking and straw purchases, the legal penalties are substantial. They act as a deterrent against these activities.
Individuals engaged in firearm trafficking, which involves illegally transferring or transporting firearms, can face severe consequences. The penalties may include up to 15 years of imprisonment and/or a significant fine.
For straw purchases, where someone buys a firearm on behalf of another person prohibited from owning one, the legal penalties are equally stringent. Violators can also be subject to up to 15 years' imprisonment and/or fines. However, if the defendant knew that the firearm acquired through a straw purchase was intended to further a felony, crime of terrorism, or drug trafficking, the stakes would be significantly higher. In such cases, the maximum prison term increases to 25 years, which reflects the gravity of enabling criminal actions through straw purchases.
Building a Defense Against Federal Firearm Trafficking
Mounting a robust defense is crucial to protect the rights and interests of the accused. One of the first steps in building a defense involves thoroughly examining the case's facts. Attorneys carefully assess the circumstances surrounding the alleged firearm trafficking to identify any inconsistencies or weaknesses in the prosecution's case. This critical analysis forms the foundation for crafting an effective defense strategy.
Defense lawyers meticulously review the evidence presented by the prosecution. This review includes scrutinizing documents, witness statements, and any physical evidence. This careful examination helps identify potential discrepancies or issues with the evidence, which can be leveraged in the defense.
A strategic defense requires anticipating and preparing for the prosecution's arguments. Attorneys work to counter these arguments with solid and well-reasoned defenses, effectively challenging the prosecution's case and raising reasonable doubt.
How a Lawyer Protects Their Client’s Rights
Attorneys play a critical role in protecting their client's rights. They often advise clients not to make self-incriminating statements to law enforcement. This guidance is essential to avoid statements that could be used against the defendant in court. Lawyers help their clients understand their right to remain silent and the importance of invoking it.
Attorneys closely scrutinize the legality of searches and seizures conducted by law enforcement. If any searches or seizures were conducted without a warrant or proper cause, lawyers work to suppress the evidence obtained as a result. This legal protection ensures that evidence collected in violation of the Fourth Amendment is inadmissible in court, bolstering the defense.
Hire an Attorney for Your Case
Staying informed about federal firearm trafficking laws is a matter of legal compliance and a responsibility to maintain public safety. As the legal landscape evolves, individuals must remain updated on the latest regulations to avoid inadvertently breaking the law.
If you or someone you know is facing a federal firearm trafficking case or has concerns related to this matter, seek legal representation.