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

In the US, there are restrictions on the possession of automatic weapons.
Possessing an illegal firearm can lead to a mandatory prison term in some jurisdictions.
Individuals who carry a concealed weapon without a permit may receive a possession charge.
Charges for the illegal possession of a firearm vary among states in the United States.
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  • Written By: Pablo Garcia
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
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  • Last Modified Date: 05 September 2014
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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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