Under federal law, gun owners are not required to have licenses, and background checks are not necessary in private gun sales. Federal law also does not outlaw assault weapons or large capacity magazines. However, firearm possession, firearms transfers, and interstate transportation of firearms can be illegal for certain individuals.
The possession or the use of a firearm during the commission of other crimes can severely enhance penalties for those crimes. For example, federal law requires lengthy mandatory minimum sentences (potentially 5, 7, 10, or 30 years) for possessing, brandishing, or discharging a gun in the course of the commission of a drug trafficking crime or crime of violence (18 U.S.C. § 924(c)). Every subsequent commission of such an offense further carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years. The law requires these mandatory prison terms to be served back-to-back—in other words, consecutively and not concurrently—with each other and with any other sentence for the underlying crime. This rule is known as “stacking,” and it can result in very lengthy sentences.
The above mandatory minimum law often applies to nonviolent gun owners who have not harmed or injured anyone. The law also applies to legally purchased and registered firearms found in a person’s home, even if that person did not use the firearms or have them present during the commission of an underlying offense. For example, a nonviolent offender selling drugs in his or her own home can serve an extra five years in prison just because he or she also had a gun at home—without the gun ever being used in a drug sale.
Penalties for Gun Violations
Depending on one’s past convictions, federal firearm laws can have harsh penalties for violent offenders, drug users, and illegal aliens, especially those possessing firearms or ammunition that have been carried across state lines. Fugitives from justice, anyone who has a domestic violence conviction or is subject to a domestic violence restraining order, and anyone who has been dishonorably discharged from the military faces similar penalties for possession. Convicted felons discovered possessing a firearm face up to 10 years in prison. For those with three violent felony convictions, this time increases to at least 15 years. Using a shotgun or an assault weapon adds 10 years to a sentence for a violent crime, and using an automatic weapon, silencer, or other destructive device adds 30 years. As mentioned earlier, enhanced punishments include both longer sentences and mandatory consecutive sentences.
Under Florida law, most firearm offenses are classified as felonies, and the charges can be very serious. Carrying a concealed firearm is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. It is also illegal under state law for a convicted felon to knowingly own, possess, or control a firearm. This is one of the most serious gun offenses, and it is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, and $10,000 in fines.
Other firearm offenses under state law include unlawful possession, possession of an illegal weapon, possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime, brandishing a firearm, unlawful discharge of a firearm, and unlawful purchase, sale, or distribution of firearms or weapons. Much like federal law, Florida state law increases the maximum sentences for certain crimes when a firearm or other weapon is used in the commission of the crime. The law that does so, Florida Statutes Section 775.087, applies to three categories of offenders. The first is those who carry, use, or threaten to use a weapon or firearm during the commission of a felony offense, where the use of a weapon or firearm is not an essential element of the crime. The second category is those who commit or attempt to commit certain felony offenses and, in so doing, possess or use a firearm or destructive device, regardless of whether that possession or use is an essential element of the crime. The third category is those who commit or attempt to commit certain felony offenses and, in so doing, possess or use a semi-automatic firearm or machine gun, regardless of whether the possession or use is an essential element of the crime.
If you have been charged with illegal possession of a firearm or any other firearms charges, you should speak with an attorney before talking to local police, federal investigators, or prosecutors. Attorney Robert Foley has substantial experience in firearms matters and will provide you with a free consultation.