Shooting range + non-immigrant visa – hunting permit = potential legal disaster

I have lost count how many times I have told people that “going to a shooting range and renting a gun when you have a non-immigrant visa (F-1, H1B, TN) is a bad idea.” To avoid having to find the material over and over, I will post it here and start sending the link. I hope this article itself doesn’t end up causing myself any trouble 🙂

Please note that since I am not an attorney, you have to consult a real lawyer before taking any action. Use this page as a reference for your research.

The Federal Law: no ‘possession’ of firearms or ammunition[PDF]

An alien admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa is prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing a firearm or ammunition unless the alien falls within one of the exceptions provided in 18 U.S.C. 922(y)(2), such as: a valid hunting license or permit, admitted for lawful hunting or sporting purposes, certain official representatives of a foreign government, or a foreign law enforcement officer of a friendly foreign government entering the United States on official law enforcement business.

[18 U.S.C. 922(g)(5)(B) and 922(y)(2); 27 CFR 478.11 and 478.32]

The federal law is about firearms transported interstate. But I would not construct potential legal trouble on the fact that I think the firearm never left the state.

But it says “possession,” I am just renting. So it’s not a problem.

This jury guide[PDF] says “possession” is having knowledge and control, and more than one person can have possession of a device.

A person has possession of something if the person knows of its presence and has physical control of it, or knows of its presence and has the power and intention to control it.

[More than one person can be in possession of something if each knows of its presence and has the power and intention to control it.]

Furthermore, when you get to a shooting range you actually do buy the ammunition, then fire it. So even by that simplistic logic, you have violated the above law.

I’m sure no one has gotten in trouble for this.

Right before I got to the US, a UT Dallas student draw attention to himself for making some deeply questionable comments. The alleged link to bad guys was never confirmed, but him shooting a firearm during a hiking trip was. And he did get 6.5 years [PDF] for violating this exact gun law and years later deported[PDF].

We have gone to the range before, and the gun range people said it’s OK.

These are the most common things I hear from people. First of all, the gun range person is not your attorney. He can get up to 10 years herself/himself, or they might even call the police themselves (like the case below). Also, since you passed a stop sign once or twice it doesn’t mean it’s legal. It just means you did not get caught.

Please talk to a real attorney first. In this climate of suspicion, it’s more than likely that the authorities assume the worst … and for understandable reasons.

That guy had some alleged links to bad guys, I don’t. I am fine!

These gentlemen [PDF] just looked Middle Eastern enough for the gun range owner to call the police. No links with bad guys were ever found. Still, they were convicted [PDF], got time served plus supervision.

How about getting a hunting permit?

Some Chinese students tried to take the right route[PDF] and get a hunting permit. Unfortunately for them, the law had slightly changed sine 2015. Apparently some older students told them what to do, and since they were no attorneys, they were not aware of the change.

I have an H1B visa, and I am working on my green card. I am an immigrant alien, right?

Apparently not! Again, this has to be checked with a real attorney. Based on USCIS descriptions I found, all these are temporary non-immigrant visas among others:

And even if you have your I-140 approved, your status does not change from non-immigrant to immigrant until your I-485 is approved. Again. TALK WITH A REAL ATTORNEY, I am just a web page!

What I have observed in Unites States is that you can have any fun you want as long as it’s not violating any laws or rights of others. It’s on us immigrants to first learn and practice the laws, then contribute from our past experience and future work to this amazing country.