Although Georgia has its own state laws regarding the purchase of firearms, how they can be carried and how people can use them within the state, federal laws often apply when a person faces weapons charges. According to the United States Sentencing Commission, federal firearms convictions often result in mandatory minimum prison sentences.
“Mandatory minimum” means that even though judges often have discretion in determining a sentence, they cannot issue a judgment for less than the set amount for that particular firearms offense.
Anyone who commits a drug trafficking crime or a crime of violence and is carrying a firearm could be subject to a five-year minimum sentence. If the prosecutor proves to the judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged offender brandished the weapon, the minimum goes up to seven years, and it increases to 10 years if the offender discharged the weapon. The type of firearm affects the sentence, too. The following firearms automatically result in a 10-year sentence:
- Short-barreled shotgun
- Semiautomatic assault weapon
- Short-barreled rifle
If the weapon in question was equipped with a muffler or a silencer, if it was a destructive device or if it was a machine gun, the minimum sentence is 30 years. The minimum is also affected by the number of charges and previous convictions.
The USSC notes that in 2017, 2,075 offenders received a firearms conviction with a mandatory minimum penalty. However, 81.2 percent of the offenders were subject to the minimum when they were sentenced, and on average, the penalty was 161 months (over 13 years), although it was 101 months, or nearly 8.5 years, with relief.