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Firearms Law Deskbook, 2018-2019 Edition

by Stephen P. Halbrook

Published by Thomson Reuters (2018)


Quickly determine your legal position and appropriate course of action in a firearms case.

If you’re searching for timely information on firearms cases that are similar to yours, analyzing the disparity of gun control laws in different jurisdictions, or planning trial strategy, then Firearms Law Deskbook should be your first point of reference.

Firearms Law Deskbook is the perfect “co-counsel” for prosecutors who need to identify various firearms offenses and avoid dismissal of an action, temporary dismantling of an action, or reversal of appeal, and for defense attorneys who need to develop the appropriate defenses to the wide variety of firearms laws.

Better still, Firearms Law Deskbook offers helpful litigation checklists and proven tactical tips to help you start out strong in your firearms case—and wind up winning it!

The recent judicial, legislative, and regulatory activity affecting firearms illustrates the need for a comprehensive sourcebook for prosecutors and defense attorneys. Firearms Law Deskbook fulfills that need by giving you all the legal ammunition to identify, analyze, and act on the laws, issues, and litigation considerations concerning firearms offenses.

Find existing case law in a variety of jurisdictions

In the Lopez decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declared a firearm possession ban unconstitutional. In U.S. v. Staples, it ruled that under the National Firearms Act, the government has to prove that the defendant knows the characteristics of the weapon he or she possesses. These Supreme Court decisions show how difficult it is to litigate firearms cases.

But with Firearms Law Deskbook, you’ll be fully prepared to analyze how significant Supreme Court decisions affect your case. Plus, the Deskbook:

    • Analyzes the Sixth Circuit’s Springfield Armory precedent and the Robertsonprecedent declaring firearms prohibitions unconstitutionally vague
    • Examines entrapment by estoppel, pretrial dismissal or an indictment for government abuse, and other due process issues
    • Discusses federal prosecutions instigated by the BATF
    • Discusses firearms cases during pretrial proceedings, jury trial, sentencing, and appeal

Analyze agency regulations and statutes at all levels of government

What firearms are constitutionally protected? Is possession of a firearm 1,000 feet from a school a federal crime under the interstate commerce clause? Are compliance inspections of a licensed firearms dealer limited to the dealer’s business hours?

Firearms Law Deskbook answers your constitutional and statutory questions by analyzing:

    • The congressional intent and legal framework of the Gun Control Act and the National Firearms Act
    • Complex regulations concerning the sale, manufacture, transfer, transportation, licensing, importation and possession of firearms
    • Firearms statutes and unwritten agency law
    • Forfeitures, attorney’s fees, and preemption under the Gun Control Act
    • Summary of all state gun control laws
    • Scope of BATF powers, including licensee inspections
    • Vagueness issues raised in the identification and prohibition of assault weapons
    • Constitutional problems with proposed firearms bills
    • Recently amended weapons laws that increase enforcement and impose stricter penalties

Ensure that you don’t “shoot blanks” in court with proven litigation tips

Firearms Law Deskbook offers expert litigation strategies and checklists that help you use the wide variety of gun control laws to define a weapons offense, obtain crucial agency documents to strengthen your case,and challenge recently enacted prohibitions. You’ll also get tactical tips to help you:

    • Develop opening and closing statements that sway judges and juries to your side
    • Determine which violations of Gun Control Act provisions must be proven “knowing” or “willful”
    • Seek dismissal based on the vagueness of assault weapon definitions
    • And more!


Right to Bear Arms

    • The Intent of the Framers
    • District of Columbia v. Heller
    • Post-Heller Decisions
    • Pre-Heller Jurisprudence of the Second Amendment
    • The Fifth Circuit’s Emerson Decision and the Justice Department’s Policy
    • McDonald v. City of Chicago, Ill.
    • The Fourteenth Amendment before McDonald
    • State Jurisprudence
    • Is the Right to Bear Arms Fundamental?
    • Equal Protection Issues
    • Privacy, Association, and Other Rights
    • Carrying Firearms
    • Litigation Checklist

Gun Control Act: Federal Regulations

    • Purpose of the Gun Control Act
    • Transfer of BATF from Treasury to Justice
    • Definition of a Firearm
    • Intent Requirements: Knowing or Willful
    • Dealings and Transactions Involving Firearms
    • The Brady Act
    • Transportation Offenses
    • Theft of and Stolen Firearms
    • Prohibited Persons
    • Elements and Burdens: Felons
    • Convictions: Foreign
    • Convictions: Military Courts
    • Prohibited Persons: General
    • Restraining Orders
    • Misdemeanor Crim of Domestic Violence: Elements
    • Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence: Restoration of Rights
    • Commerce Elements
    • Possession, Actual, and Necessity
    • Units of Prosecution
    • Addicts and Unlawful Users of Controlled Substances
    • Fugitives from Justice
    • Mental Defectives and Persons Committed to Mental Institutions
    • Prohibited under More than One Category
    • Persons under Indictment
    • Juveniles
    • Body Armor
    • Excluded Offenses, Restoration of Rights and Removal of Disabilities
    • Prohibited Firearms
    • Prohibited Places
    • Importation; Assembly of Imported Parts
    • Licensing Provisions
    • Licensee Transactions at Gun Shows
    • Carrying, Use, and Posession of Firearms under 18 U.S.C.A. § 924(c) and Other Offenses
    • Weapon Types and Sentences under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)
    • Brandishing and Discharge of a Firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)
    • Illegal Aliens and Aliens Admitted Under Non-Immigrant Visas
    • Military Personnel and Misdemeanor Crimes of Domestic Violence
    • Exclusions and removal of disabilities from mental commitments and mental defective adjudications
    • Litigation Checklist

Licensees, Records, and BATF Inspections

    • Inspection Powers Generally
    • The Biswell Rule
    • Inspection Warrant Requirement
    • Warrantless Inspections
    • Requirement that Inspections be Conducted During Business Hours
    • Premises That May be Entered for Inspection
    • Warrant Requirements When the Licensee is Suspected of a Violation of the Act
    • Authority to Inspect Does Not Necessarily Include the Power to Seize
    • Inspection of Records and Inventory of Licensed Collector
    • Restriction of BATF Activity to Examination of Records and Firearms Inventory
    • The Duty to Report the Theft or Loss of a Firearm
    • Prohibition on Transfer of Licensee Records to BATF Offices
    • Raising the Unlawfulness of a Licensee Inspection: Standing
    • Surreptitious Entry by Federal Agent with State Inspectors
    • The National Instant Criminal Background Check
    • Access to Federal Records by State and Local Authorities
    • Manufacturer’s or Dealer’s License?
    • Firearm Marking Requirements
    • License Revocation and Continuing Business After Conviction Issuance of New License
    • Litigation Checklist

Forfeitures, Attorney’s Fees, Regulation, and Preemption

    • Firearms Subject to Seizure and Forfeiture
    • Forfeiture Rules and Procedures
    • The Particularity Requirement
    • Attorney’s Fees for Return of Firearms and for Frivolous Prosecutions
    • BATF’s Power to Promulgate Regulations
    • Preemption of State Law
    • Litigation Checklist

Gun Control Act: Interstate Commerce

    • Power of Congress
    • Congressional Power to Prohibit Possession of Firearms
    • Effects of Firearms on Interstate Commerce: Congressional


    • Requirement that Regulated Activity Have Substantial Effect on Interstate Commerce
    • No General Congressional Police Power
    • Domestic Violence Clause
    • The Machine Gun Prohibition
    • The Assault Weapon, Juvenile Handgun, and Felon Body-Armor


    • Reserved Powers of the States: Printz v. U.S.
    • Litigation Checklist

National Firearms Act: Definitions

    • Rule of Lenity
    • Knowledge of the Character of the Weapon
    • Firearms
    • Machine Guns
    • Weapons That Shoot More than one Shot Automatically
    • “Designed to Shoot Automatically”
    • “Readily Restored to Shoot”
    • Frames or Receivers
    • Conversion Kits
    • Combinations of Parts
    • Testing Procedures for Machine Guns by ATF Firearms

Technology Branch

    • Short-Barreled Rifles and Weapons Made From Rifles
    • Short-Barreled Shotguns and Weapons Made from Shotguns
    • “Any Other Weapon”
    • Silencers
    • Destructive Devices
    • Firearms With Barrels Over .50 Caliber
    • Explosive Devices
    • Unserviceable Firearms
    • “Make”
    • Litigation Checklist

National Firearms Act: Prohibited Acts

    • Transfer of BATF from Treasury to Justice
    • Possession of Unregistered Firearms
    • Violations in Making, Transferring, and Possessing Firearms
    • Alteration, Obliteration, or Lack of Serial Numbers
    • False Entries in Required Records
    • Penalties and Forfeitures
    • Statute of Limitations for NFA Prosecutions
    • Litigation Checklist

National Firearms Act: Constitutional Issues

    • Prosecutions under the NFA for Post-1986 Machineguns
    • Constitutional Problems with the NFA in States that Prohibit Possession of NFA Firearms
    • Prohibitions on Approval of Making and Transfer Applications
    • Disclosures in Violation of the Fifth Amendment and 26 U.S.C. §5848
    • Unlawful Disclosures Under 26 U.S.C. §6103
    • The Local Law Enforcement Certification Required for Applications to Make or Transfer a Firearm
    • Fourth Amendment Issues
    • Does the NFA Apply to the States?
    • Litigation Checklist

Entrapment and Due Process

    • Traditional Entrapment Issues
    • Due Process and Entrapment by Estoppel
    • BATF Rulings
    • Illustration: ATF Ruling 81-4 and AR-15 Rifle Prosecutions
    • Sentencing Entrapment and Manipulation
    • Litigation Checklist

Assault Weapon Prohibitions

    • Proliferation of Assault Weapon Prohibitions
    • The Sixth Circuit’s Springfield Armory Precedent
    • Robertson v. Denver
    • Federal Assault Weapon Prohibition
    • “Assault Weapon” as Defined by Manufacturer and Model
    • Generic Definitions
      • Rifles
      • Pistols
      • Shotguns
    • Prohibition on Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Devices
    • Other Generic Definitions Ruled Vague
    • California’s Assault Weapon Ban
    • Connecticut’s Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety
    • Maryland’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013
    • New York’s Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013
    • Is Possession a Crime of Violence Under the Sentencing
    • Guidelines?
    • Litigation Checklist

Exportation of Firearms

    • The Arms Export Control Act and the Munitions List
    • Registration and Export License Requirements
    • Willfulness as an Element of the Offense
    • The Export Administration Act
    • Export of Shotguns, Shotgun Shells, and Optical Sighting Devices
    • Are Listings Overbroad Under the Enabling Statute?
    • Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violation


    • State Firearms Laws


“The most comprehensive discussion of National Firearms Act legal issues.”

— CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE, ATF Firearms Testing Procedures (2005)