As the purveyor of truth and justice, I get asked questions. This was a great one: “I have a question and I am hoping you can help me with this. Say there is a Marine who is in a bar fight in another state and he is charged but not convicted of assault, would this have an effect on his ability to purchase, possess or handle any firearm (for instance) a .22 or a AK-47? If so what would the effect be? Would an assault conviction have a different outcome?”
Great question! Questions give me a chance to pontificate about guns and liberty, my two favorite things.
First, his Marine status is irrelevant to the question. The Marine status is only relevant to his need to have a Georgia Weapons Carry License. If he is a Marine, he has no need for a GWCL, although I still think it’s a good idea. But when it comes to purchasing, possessing or handling a firearm, a Marine gets no different treatment under the law.
Another state? The state of the arrest is also irrelevant, although it might make it harder for the authorities to discover it. Some states are horrible at putting arrests and dispositions into the criminal history database. Georgia is one of the worst. (Thank goodness for Mississippi, they are the worst.)
The crime of assault is irrelevant too. All that matters is if it is a felony or not. There are some bizarre exceptions to the felony rule, but that is for another day. The bar fight is likewise irrelevant. How he came to be charged with the assault is not relevant for gun purposes, only that he was charged matters.
The gun? Again, irrelevant what type of gun because IF one is prohibited from possessing a firearm, it matters not what type of gun it is.
So we’ve got the irrelevant stuff out of the way, all of which made for a good story and gives context to the question, so we’re not belittling those facts, just pointing out that they don’t change the answer.
A pending felony charge renders a GWCL revocable – OCGA 16-11-129(b)(2)(C). So he loses his GWCL while the case is pending. If convicted, he also loses it – (2)(b). But his carry with a permit wasn’t the question, he’s a Marine so he doesn’t need a GWCL.
Georgia has no rule on possessing a firearm while felony charges are pending. The Feds do, but it has caveats. 18 USC 922(n) says that one who is under “indictment” cannot “ship or transport…or receive” any firearm. So if our Marine is not under indictment (that is, only an arrest warrant was issued), this doesn’t kick in. Even if he is, IF he possesses a firearm he already owned, that appears to be okay. He would be ineligible to buy one however and that would probably appear on his background check.
Thus, in Georgia, if he is simply charged with a felony crime (not indicted), and there was no bond restriction to the contrary, he could hold on to his firearms and possess the same. But he cannot purchase or receive one under Federal law.
So let’s say you are taking this Marine hunting. He doesn’t have a rifle. You loan him yours. Are you in trouble if he’s caught? Yes. Would it matter whether you knew he was under charges? Maybe it would to a prosecutor, but that is unclear in the statute.
What if you are in the Marine’s family, he left his guns with you when he deployed. Now he wants them back, but you know of the felony charge. Can you give them to him? We wouldn’t recommend it based on federal law.
Be careful my friends.
Kelly Burke, master attorney, former district attorney and magistrate judge, is engaged in private practice. He writes about the law, rock’n’roll and politics. These articles are not designed to give legal advice, but are designed to inform the public about how the law affects their daily lives. Contact Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org to comment on this article or suggest articles that you’d like to see. Visit my website at www.kellyrburke.com to view prior columns.