A provision of U.S. federal law that forbids several categories of people, including felons, “to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.” (18 U.S. Code § 922(g)).
Requirements for Conviction
If a person is accused of possessing a firearm while having a felony conviction on their record, several requirements for conviction. For the jury to convict the accused of this crime, they must be convinced that the government has proven each of these things beyond a reasonable doubt:
- that the defendant has been and knows that they have been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year; or, alternatively, the parties have stipulated that the defendant was convicted and knew they were convicted of a crime which is punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year; or, that the defendant was previously involuntarily committed to a mental institution and that they knew that they were so committed.
- that the defendant knowingly possessed a firearm/ammunition described in the indictment. The term “firearm” means any weapon which will or is designed or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive. The term “firearm” also includes the frame or receiver of any such weapon. The word “knowingly” means that the act was done voluntarily and intentionally, not because of mistake or accident.
- that the firearm/ammunition, at any time after it was manufactured, moved from one state to another or from a foreign country into the United States. The travel need not have been connected to the charge in the indictment, need not have been in furtherance of any unlawful activity and need not have occurred while the defendant possessed the firearm/ammunition.
The government does not have to prove that the defendant knew that their conduct was illegal.
Any individual who violates this section will be fined under this title or imprisoned for up to 10 years, or both.
Note: An individual may receive a minimum sentence of 15 years without parole if the offender has three or more prior convictions for a felony crime of violence (e.g. burglary, robbery, assault, possession of offensive weapons) and/or drug trafficking felony.
Further Facts & Considerations
For the most part, federal law prohibiting felons from possessing firearms has been an accepted, blanketed fact in the mind of many Americans. However, while a previously small number of felons were able to reclaim their gun rights, the process has become easier and more common in many states. This is largely in part to an allowance made by Congress in the late 1980s that began permitting state laws to dictate these reinstatements — part of a revamp of federal gun laws set into motion by the National Rifle Association.
In recent years, this movement has gained momentum, with many gun rights advocates seeking to capitalize on the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms.
While a number of states continue to make it extremely hard for felons to have their gun rights restored, many others are more forgiving, The New York Times found. In some cases, restoration is automatic for nonviolent felons immediately after their sentences are completed. In others, the decision is left up to judges. However, the standards for reinstatement are generally vague, and the process is often carried out with no real rhyme or reason. In some states, even violent felons face a relatively low bar, with no waiting period before they can apply.