I read this slightly bizarre article that says two convicted felons were charged after touching guns in a gun store.

Although the article is unclear on the meaning of touching, I'm going to assume the men had physically held the gun in hand. That of course is clearly a violation broken, nothing to see here, move along type deal. They also had a third person essentially buy a gun for them. I guess they get an A for effort on trying to be smooth.

It is not a smart idea of them to be in a place that sells weapons to begin with, but it made me wonder about a few things. Is it illegal for a convicted felon to enter a gun store, a gun show, or have some proximity restriction involving guns that they are knowingly aware of? My only real guess is some may be given strict rules based on their probation, being released on bond, constraints of their conviction, etc.

If a felon did touch a gun, say with their pointer finger, is that enough to be considered in possession of a gun, or having control of the gun?

For the record, I'm by no means questioning what the police did in this case. The article is worded very poorly, and simply produced a few possible "grey area" questions.

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    What jurisdiction are you interested in? It looks like you're asking about the United States, but even if you are, most gun laws are state laws, so it would depend on which state the felon is in.
    – phoog
    Nov 8, 2017 at 13:28
  • @phoog I’m in Missouri, USA so anything US related
    – DrZoo
    Nov 8, 2017 at 16:26

1 Answer 1


Federal law bars possession of guns by felons and also bars the use of straw purchasers. The primary statute involved in 18 U.S.C. § 992(g).

Being in a gun show would not be per se illegal, absent an atypical parole or probation condition. But, in this case it looks like the individuals held the guns which would constitute possession, and it looks like they also arranged for a straw purchase.

Merely touching a gun with a single finger would probably not constitute possession of a gun for this purpose, although the incentive not to test the boundaries is great, because the sentences are so severe. (Incidentally, there are more convictions for this offense in Missouri than anyplace else in the United States).

  • Are the Columbia Missouri police enforcing federal law? How is this different from federal immigration law, which states seem to be prohibited from enforcing?
    – phoog
    Nov 8, 2017 at 18:13
  • Thanks for you answer, and the link to the possession statistics! I'm going to see if I can find one for 2016 and compare them.
    – DrZoo
    Nov 8, 2017 at 18:33
  • @phoog It isn't uncommon for state and local police to arrest under parallel state laws on possession by felons and then to refer the matter for federal prosecution when they feel it is appropriate. Immigration is in the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government, while gun crime is not.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 8, 2017 at 20:51

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