The illegal sale and transport of firearms is a serious offense in the United States. If convicted of federal weapons charges individuals face a range of penalties from prison and probation to fines and fees. While many law enforcement agencies may be involved in an investigation, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is the primary federal agency tasked with investigating federal firearms offenses.
A trial of two men accused of stealing firearms and attempting to sell them recently began. The men are accused of stealing more than 130 firearms from a freight trailer and attempting to sell the weapons in California. Both men are charged with federal weapons charges including the theft of firearms from a licensed dealer, possession of stolen firearms and the theft of firearms in interstate commerce.
After the theft, police contacted the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who conducted the federal investigation into the missing firearms. According to authorities, weapons with matching serial numbers to those stolen have since turned up in California and Mexico. Only 21 of nearly 136 firearms have been recovered so far. The theft has also allegedly been linked to at least one shooting so far.
Sentencing for federal firearms offenses vary depending on a number of factors. In the present case, if the men accused are convicted on the charges currently against them the defendants could face a maximum federal prison sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine. The case, however, appears to rely almost solely on the testimony of individuals who are less than credible. According to the defense, no actual evidence links the men to the guns.
Federal weapons charges can have long-lasting consequences. Those facing such charges may want to seek advice regarding all available defenses to the allegations against them.
Source: Billings Gazette, "Firearms theft trial opens in federal court," Clair Johnson, July 8, 2013