October 19, 2016
Gun Background Checks Can Trigger Arrests on Felony Charges
In Pennsylvania, background checks are required for the sale or transfer of most firearms, except for private transactions in which rifles or shotguns are transferred. Those who wish to purchase a gun will need to complete ATF Form 4473 and SP 4-113. These forms ask about your criminal history and whether you have had any issues with mental health, among other factors. The documents gun buyers must fill out also explain that if you “knowingly and intentionally” provide a false answer, you could be charged with a criminal offense.
Many people go into gun shops and complete these background checks without problems. However, according to Penn Live, there are also many people who end up arrested as a result of the gun background checks. In fact, more than 1,800 people have been arrested since 1998.
In some cases, these people are arrested because the background checks turn up active warrants for other crimes. In other situations, however, those who fill out the background check forms may inadvertently make a mistake but could be arrested for “lying” on their application. The arrest could result in felony gun crimes charges, which are obviously very serious charges.
York Daily Record warned of people committing “accidental” felonies when they inadvertently include incorrect information on gun background check forms. One man, for example, faced charges which could carry 18 to 36 months in prison because he had checked the wrong box on his background check form.
The people who fail gun background checks have voluntarily chosen to go into a gun store and submit the forms, which means many may not be aware they aren’t allowed to own a gun and may not intend to lie on the background check form. Some of the questions many people have a particularly hard time answering correctly center around whether they have ever been involuntarily committed or whether they have ever been convicted of a criminal offense with a potential penalty of more than a year of incarceration.
The problem is, the law against lying on background checks is a one-size fits all law, which means the possibility of serious penalties for those who may inadvertently lie because they don’t realize the crime they had been convicted of (and perhaps got probation for) could actually have carried a lengthy sentence. Often, the crime was committed many years ago, and those who fail to check the right box on their gun background check don’t even think of it when they check “no” and end up accused of lying.
The problem of people potentially facing felony gun charges for “lying” inadvertently is only getting worse, as Pennsylvania police made the decision to begin investigating every failed background check back in 2013. Those who do fail their background checks and who find themselves facing serious gun crimes or weapons charges because of a mistake on a form should make certain they get appropriate legal help as soon as possible.