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Surprise: Minnesota Supreme Court Determines That BB Guns Are Not, In Fact, Firearms

Thursday, October 20, 2016 12:59
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Seriously, this had to go to court to be recognized

(Star Tribune)  The Minnesota Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a felon sentenced to five years in prison for the possession of a small BB gun, ruling Wednesday that the air-powered weapon is not a firearm.

Though the decision vacates the conviction upheld by the Minnesota Court of Appeals, it is not broad-sweeping. The ruling only covers Minnesota’s felon-in-possession statues, not someone who chooses to actually fire it.

Since 1977, the state’s two appellate courts have repeatedly agreed with the Legislature that a BB gun is a firearm when involved in various crimes, such as drive-by shootings. (snip)

The Supreme Court disagreed, arguing that the plain meaning of “firearm” does not include an air-powered BB gun. A firearm, it ruled, is defined as a weapon from which a shot is discharged by gunpowder. A BB gun can’t be defined in that way because it doesn’t use explosive force, according to court records.

The court said it was up to the legislature to determine the definition of a firearm, noting that things like nail guns work on the same principle as a BB gun, yet aren’t considered firearms.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said he was disappointed with Wednesday’s ruling, which would force the dismissal of any pending cases in which a felon was alleged to be in possession of an “air-powered” firearm. Choi called on the Legislature to provide further clarity on the issue.

“For the public’s sake, there should be a clear prohibition and serious penalties for felons who carry ‘air-powered’ guns,” Choi wrote in a statement to the Star Tribune. “These ‘air-powered’ guns are not yesterday’s Daisy Riders. They look identical to popular handguns, have immense firepower, and too often are involved in criminal activity or tragic events.”

It would be wise for the legislature to look at penalties for those who use air-powered guns as props for intimidation and crimes. Some of them are so realistic looking that even the most knowledgeable gun owners have no idea. But, they aren’t firearms.


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