Under 18 USC § 922(g)(1), convicted felons may not possess firearms, and violators can be punished with up to ten years in prison. Congress’s intent in prohibiting the possession of firearms by felons was to “eliminate firearms from the hands of criminals, while interfering as little as possible with the law abiding citizen.” An individual who aids and abets a felon’s firearm ownership can be charged as an accomplice to the felon-in-possession offense, pursuant to 18 USC § 2(a).
The circuit courts currently are split over whether a defendant charged with aiding and abetting a felon under § 922(g)(1) can be held strictly liable for knowing the principal’s status as a convicted felon. While the Ninth Circuit applies a strict liability standard, the Third and Sixth Circuits insist that the defendant must possess knowledge or “reasonable cause to believe” that the principal is a convicted felon for the defendant to be convicted as an accomplice under § 922(g)(1).
This Comment argues that courts should apply the knowing or “reasonable cause to believe” standard; at the same time, concurrent felonious activity should trigger a rebuttable presumption that the defendant possessed “reasonable cause to believe” that the principal was a convicted felon. This Comment defines “concurrent felonious activity” as occurring when the defendant aides the principal’s violation of § 922(g)(1) in order to further a separate felony offense engaged in by the defendant and the principal.