When is a Gun considered a “Firearm”?

This probably sounds like a silly question to many…but to David Haywood, it wasn’t quite so clear.

Take the case in Minnesota where their courts upheld that a BB Gun was considered a firearm. While this might not mean much to the average gun owner, it certainly did to David Haywood. Why? Because he was someone who had a prior felony conviction and was caught in possession of a firearm…a BB Gun…and now faces additional felony charges according to the courts.

The article in MPR News in Minnesota, “Minnesota Court: A BB Gun is a Firearm,” gives more detail on the case and explains how this came about according to Minnesota law. The law clearly states…

“Any person who has been convicted of a crime of violence, as defined in section 624.712, subdivision 5, and who ships, transports, possesses, or receives a firearm, commits a felony and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 15 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $30,000, or both.”

But the argument from Mr. Haywood was that a BB Gun isn’t a firearm…the courts saw otherwise. Now he faces felony charges for the possession of a firearm against the law.

What can we learn from this situation? The issue isn’t whether he had a BB Gun or some other type of firearm. The issue is that he didn’t fully understand the law and used his own interpretation to make his decisions, which weren’t consistent with the law. While this might seem a bit silly, it happens all the time…not with a BB Gun but with other issues surrounding gun laws.

There are many cases throughout the country every year where a gun owner “interpreted” the law one way and the courts interpreted it another way. Guess who usually wins in those situations? You would be right, the state courts. The responsibility is upon the gun owner to understand the laws since ignorance still isn’t an excuse for breaking the law.

So whether it is a BB Gun or some other type of more serious firearm issue, understating how the state laws and how the courts would view it is what matters, not your individual interpretation. I get asked all the time about certain firearms and without question we have to go look at the law and determine how the courts have viewed this particular weapon. If it is a grey area, then we need to get a ruling on it to be sure before you go carrying it around or owning it.

It’s critically important for all gun owners to understand all aspects of the law when it comes to firearms if they take on the responsibility of owning one. Think of it like a pet. You wouldn’t get a pet (or at least you shouldn’t) and just ignore all the requirements of getting it the proper shots and medical attention and expect it to survive and be healthy. It is a responsibility you take on when you commit to own the pet…similar to firearms. And while you may not go to jail for it, you stand a good chance you will if you violate gun laws.

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