Tourists and US gun ranges

It can be tempting to go to a gun range in the US and shoot some guns, especially fully automatic weapons such as machine guns which are prohibited in Canada. Gun ranges near Las Vegas cater especially to the tourist crowd, and a simple Google search turns up at least half a dozen all promising a very exciting time.

Unless you’re a US resident or citizen, try to resist the temptation and stay away from firearms while in the US.

The highly promoted American 2nd amendment “right to bear arms” does not apply to non-residents or non-citizens of the United States. As a Canadian tourist, you were likely admitted into the US as an alien under a non-immigrant visa (aka a tourist visa).

It’s not prosecuted often, but 18 USC 922(g)(5)(B) makes it unlawful to possess or even receive a firearm or related ammunition by tourists:

TITLE 18 – CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
PART I – CRIMES
CHAPTER 44 – FIREARMS
§ 922. Unlawful acts
(g) It shall be unlawful for any person—
(5) who, being an alien—
(B) except as provided in subsection (y)(2), has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa (as that term is defined in section 101(a)(26) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 (a)(26)));
to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.

“receive” seems like the broadest term, and would likely cover a tourist borrowing or renting a firearm at a US gun range.

There is an exception, but only for hunting or for shooting competitions and only if this was done at the US border:

TITLE 18 – CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
PART I – CRIMES
CHAPTER 44 – FIREARMS
§ 922. Unlawful acts
(y) Provisions Relating to Aliens Admitted Under Nonimmigrant Visas.—
(2) Exceptions.— Subsections (d)(5)(B), (g)(5)(B), and (s)(3)(B)(v)(II) do not apply to any alien who has been lawfully admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa, if that alien is—
(A) admitted to the United States for lawful hunting or sporting purposes or is in possession of a hunting license or permit lawfully issued in the United States;

Interestingly, this exact issue came up in a recent hearing for Marcus Hutchins. Mr. Hutchins is a security researcher from the UK who was arrested in Nevada and accused of being the author of the Kronos malware. Fortunately for him, the court was lenient based on his lack of past criminal history but it is nonetheless technically prohibited:

USA v. Marcus Hutchins
Case 2:17-MJ-0825-NJK on August 4, 2017
Page 8
18 During his time here in Las Vegas,
19 Mr. Hutchins, according to tweets that he made to his Twitter
20 account under the handle of “Malwaretech”, Mr. Hutchins
21 indicated that he had visited firearms ranges twice and used
22 firearms here.
23 As a foreign national who’s not accepted under 18
24 U.S. Code 922(y), he is a prohibited person for purposes of 18
25 United States Code 922(g)(5)(B).
[…]
Page 13
5 Regarding the gun range, the Court agrees with
6 Ms. Lobo. People — there are advertisements in the airport
7 about shooting at the range. And he showed his passport.
8 People are, of course, charged with knowing the law. However,
9 shooting guns at a range in Las Vegas is very different from
10 carrying guns on the street in Las Vegas.

United States 18 USC 922(g)(5)(B) USA v. Marcus Hutchins P8 Line 23

About David Lam

David Lam is a lawyer practicing business law, real estate law, intellectual property law (patents, trademarks, copyright, licensing), and litigation in the Greater Toronto Area. For more information and to contact David, please visit https://www.davidlam.ca.
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