Slackin' When Packin': Firearms Laws And Charges

You bought the gun to feel safe, but now you are in serious legal trouble for possessing it, and you could be facing some fines and criminal charges. You wonder what to do now, and you will want to stay out of trouble in the future, so here's a general guide.


When people want to buy a gun legally, they usually buy a gun from a registered dealer who will do a background check. This may take only a minute or two. However, if you buy it from a private person, it is unlikely that the seller will take that step. Only a few states currently require this at gun shows, and these are California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island.

To pass a background check you should:

  • Be a legal US citizen (and have never renounced your citizenship).
  • Be considered sane.
  • Have no convictions for serious crime.
  • Not have any restraining orders against you.
  • Not have been convicted for domestic violence.
  • Not have been dishonorably discharged from a branch of the Armed Forces.
  • Not be addicted to controlled substances.

You need to check the state laws to find out what kind of permit you need, as well. If you bought the gun illegally, you don't have the proper permit for it, and/or you are disregarding state laws about carrying it, you could face second to fourth degree felony charges.


There are four types of state laws about carrying firearms openly.

Some states have permissive open carry laws which do not require permits or a license, and you can carry a gun out in the open. Licensed open carry states require permits/licenses, and anomalous open carry states allow local governments to restrict use. Finally, there are non-permissive open carry states that prohibit carrying a gun openly unless it is a special circumstance allowed by a specific law.

To carry a concealed weapon for protection, you will need to get a permit. Some states have restrictions about giving a permit to a non-resident, and you should know that Washington DC authorities, along with some American territories, prohibit carrying a concealed weapon entirely.


You should store a gun in a locked container or gun cabinet in an inconspicuous or hidden space. It should be kept unloaded, and the ammunition should be stored separately. You may think that these precautions are unnecessary if you don't have children, but you never know when someone might visit you and bring along their children. Also, this keeps your weapons safe from someone who might do something rash and will protect you from liability for accidents.

It's best not to advertise around that you have a gun(s). Since firearms are valuable, one of your family members or acquaintances might take one or more to carry around or to pawn, especially if the person has a drug or alcohol habit to feed.


You can travel through less permissive states legally to get from one permissive state to another with firearms, as long as you are abiding by both your originating state's and destination state's requirements. This is made possible by a federal law called Firearm Owners' Protection Act (FOPA). It is a good idea to have a concealed weapon permit, however.

When traveling, you need to store the guns in your trunk or a locked container, and you need to store the ammunition separately. You should not store a gun or ammunition in your glove compartment—that is just asking for trouble.

If you plan to stop during your trip and spend some time overnight in an unfamiliar state, you should go by state and local laws. Some people have gotten into serious trouble by not doing their homework when traveling with firearms.

Defense for Legal Charges

As reminders, these are serious offenses:

  • Possessing a gun and not having a permit while in an area where one is required.
  • Using a gun in the commission of a crime.
  • Using or carrying a weapon that is not legal in that state or locality.
  • Having a gun when you are considered legally ineligible to possess one.

It is also important to be aware of changes in gun laws in your area; these can happen quickly because of events and ever-changing public opinions.

To avoid possible prison time and build an adequate defense for a weapons charge, these things could be crucial:

  • The purpose of having your gun was within the law. (It is evident that you weren't planning on committing armed robbery, for example.)
  • The officers may have lacked probable cause (or a warrant if needed) to search you, your vehicle or home, and/or otherwise violated your rights.
  • You did not hurt anyone, while in possession of the firearm.

You will need services of an experienced criminal lawyer, such as from Alexander & Associates, P.C., to help protect your rights and prepare a good legal defense when dealing with firearms charges.

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