Americans have the right to own guns, but there are restrictions on where and how these guns can be used. Although licensed owners can use a gun for self-defense, for recreational purposes, and for law enforcement, it is never allowed to use a gun during the commission of a crime. In fact, when guns are involved in a crime, most penalties are "enhanced" or increased.
Owning a Gun Is a Constitutional Right
The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives most individuals the right to "keep and bear arms" However, restrictions apply. For example, you can't carry a hidden weapon unless you have a special license to do so. Under federal law, you can purchase a shotgun or a rifle when you're 18. You must be at least 21 years old to legally purchase a handgun. A background check and a waiting period are required.
Some People Can't Own Guns
Not everyone has the right to bear arms. If you have a conviction for domestic violence or if anyone has a restraining order against you, you can't purchase or possess a gun. You also lose this right if you have a criminal record for any charge that carries a prison term of a year or more (usually a felony), or if a court has judged you to be mentally incompetent.
Using a Gun Stiffens Criminal Penalties
If you use a gun while committing a crime, the penalties typically increase. How much they increase varies by state. If you fire the gun, you can face between 10 and 20 years in prison. You can receive 20 years to life in prison if you wound or kill anyone. Some stricter states have enhanced penalties if you simply have a firearm in your possession when you commit a crime, even if you never fire it.
Parole May Not Be Possible
Some state laws do not allow parole for convictions involving guns. If you receive 10 years in prison for your crime and 10 years for having a gun in your possession at the time, you'll have to serve 20 years. The two terms add together. If you're not eligible for parole, you'd have to serve the entire time.
A Criminal Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding crimes involving guns is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a criminal lawyer.