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What are the Consequences of the Illegal Possession of a Firearm?

By Pablo Garcia
Updated May 16, 2024
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The laws regulating firearms and the consequences for illegal possession of a firearm vary greatly throughout the world. In some countries the possession of any firearm for purposes other than hunting or sport shooting is prohibited, and violations of firearms prohibitions can result in severe penalties. In countries like the US, penalties for illegal possession of a firearm will vary with each state jurisdiction.

In the US, with some restrictions on the possession of automatic weapons, citizens can legally possess firearms if they follow their state laws for registering and obtaining a license for their firearms. The penalties and consequences of illegal possession of a firearm vary with each jurisdiction. Penalties can range from fines and jail terms to mandatory prison terms. They may also include the surrender and destruction of the weapon.

Uniformity among US jurisdictions is that subsequent convictions for illegal possession of a firearm result in harsher penalties, sometimes leading to mandatory prison terms. In some jurisdictions, a third offense can subject the offender to habitual offender laws that carry a term of life in prison. A felony conviction for illegal possession of a firearm usually bars the possibility of possessing a firearm again.

In the United Kingdom, gun control laws are stricter than in the US. Illegal possession of most firearms carries a mandatory term of five years imprisonment. Possession of certain prohibited firearms, like automatic weapons, can carry up to a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. England includes as an illegal firearm weapons disguised to look like they are not a firearm.

Mexico restricts its citizens to firearms ownership of rifles and shotguns, and handguns of a 0.38 caliber or less. Citizens of other countries may not enter Mexico with a firearm or ammunition without the express written permission of the appropriate authorities. Without this permission, even possession of a single round of ammunition is a violation of the law. Accidental possession does not excuse the offense, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Japanese citizens may acquire only shotguns or rifles to be used for hunting or sport shooting. These firearms must be licensed, and merely holding a firearm without a license is illegal. Similarly, in China, firearms ownership is restricted to shotguns and rifles used for hunting and sport shooting. Penalties for the illegal sale or possession of firearms in China range from three years in prison to the death penalty.

An Indian citizen may own a gun only by proving to authorities that it is necessary to protect her life. Even then, the gun permit is restricted to firearms below a certain caliber. Under no circumstances may an Indian citizen possess automatic or semi-automatic weapons. Penalties may vary from a minimum prison term and fines to life imprisonment.

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Discussion Comments

By Mor — On Sep 21, 2014

@browncoat - The problem is that if you really respect guns and understand how dangerous they can be, you will want to keep them in a proper gun locker, unloaded and unable to be produced at a moment's notice. Which means that it will be a rare situation where having one is going to make any difference.

Most confrontations involving guns are going to happen quickly and the bad guys aren't going to wait around for you to find and load one.

Statistically, it's more likely that possession of a firearm will lead to an accident rather than preventing a crime.

By browncoat — On Sep 21, 2014

@Fa5t3r - Unfortunately, we live in a world where guns are not difficult to get hold of, legally, or illegally, and banning the average person from having a handgun only makes them vulnerable to people who don't care about the laws surrounding gun possession.

The only way to make people safe is to make sure that the firepower is equally available to everyone.

I don't think people should be able to wander around with guns in public spaces either, but I do think they should be allowed to keep one in their own home.

By Fa5t3r — On Sep 20, 2014

It's kind of fascinating the differences between different countries when it comes to guns. I don't actually see the point of anyone owning a gun that isn't to be used for hunting or sport but I know a lot of people feel very strongly about it.

I do think that carrying a firearm in public should absolutely be illegal, unless you're licensed to use it.

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