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BB Guns Are Not Firearms, Minnesota Supreme Court Rules

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Last week, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a BB gun does not count as a firearm when it comes to a felon-in-possession charge. David Haywood, who was convicted of a felony in 2005, was convicted three years ago for possession of a firearm and sentenced to the mandatory minimum 5 year sentence. Now, his conviction is overturned.

Most states restrict the rights of individuals who have been convicted of a felony when it comes to gun ownership. The ruling by Minnesota's highest court will indeed change the landscape of gun ownership for felons, but only in Minnesota, and only until the legislature responds.

Air Powered Can Still Be High Powered

The court in Minnesota relied on the fact that a regular gun shoots a projectile using the explosive force of gun powder, while a BB gun uses air or pneumatic force. The court strictly interpreted the state legislature's definition of a firearm, finding that a BB gun's use of air propulsion excluded it as a firearm. The court did recognize that a BB gun, like a nail gun, or other tools that use compressed air, can be lethal; however that is not enough to bring a BB gun within the definition of a firearm.

The court advised that defining a firearm is a job for the legislature, hinting that the legislature could close this loophole by passing a law redefining a firearm to include air-powered weapons.

What the Ruling Means

As one local county attorney noted, the ruling will likely require that all felon-in-possession cases be dismissed where the gun in possession was an air-powered firearm. While the ruling may cause some prosecutions to fall apart, the ruling does not affect treating BB guns as regular firearms if they are used in the commission of a crime or are fired. The same attorney noted that BB guns today come in high-powered varieties that are not like the air rifles of the past.

While Mr. Haywood should be released soon, there has not been any indication that the state law makers plan to redefine the term firearm. Because weapons technology will continue to keep advancing, the legislatures in every state should be seeking to keep state laws current with technology.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense for use of a BB gun, contact an experience criminal defense lawyer in your area right away.

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