Who is Prohibited from Possessing a Firearm?
Federal law, 18 U.S.C 922(g) prohibits several classes of individuals from possession of a firearm, most notably felons, or anyone convicted of a crime that carries a possible sentence of more than one year.
A violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g) for being a felon in possession of a firearm is a serious offense, and carries a sentence of a fine and up to 10 years imprisonment.
There are several ways one can be charged with violating 18 U.S.C. 922(g). The most common is being a “felon in possession” of a firearm. In a 2019 Supreme Court case, Rehaif v. United States, the Supreme Court reviewed a conviction for a prohibited immigrant in possession of a firearm. The Court held that in order to be convicted under 18 U.S.C 922(g), the Government must prove not only that you knowingly possessed a firearm, but that you also knew that you were a member of one of the above prohibited classes, such as a felon.
Defenses to this charge then include 1) The Government cannot prove you knowingly possessed a firearm, 2) The Government cannot prove that you are a member of one of the prohibited classes, and 3) The Government cannot prove that you knew you were a member of a prohibited class, such as a felon, when you possessed a firearm.
It is important to note that possession does not mean “ownership.” Even holding a firearm momentarily can be possession. You do not need to fire the weapon or use it in any otherwise unlawful way to be charged with this offense. You can also be charged based on constructive possession, which means that the firearm does not necessarily need to be on your person or in your hand. It may be in a bag with other evidence that the bag is yours (like paperwork with your name on it), or in a part of your home that is accessible to your, even if the gun belongs to another household member.
18 U.S.C 922(g) also prohibits other individuals from possessing a firearm:
- An unlawful user of a Controlled Substance (drugs).
- An individual “adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution.”
- “illegal aliens” and certain visa holders.
- An individual discharged from the armed forces under dishonorable conditions.
- A former Unite States Citizen who has renounced their citizenship. An individual subject to a protective order or restraining order. An individual convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, such as Domestic Assault.