Minnesota court: BB gun is a ‘firearm’

A BB gun is a firearm, the Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled.

The court made its declaration in the case of a man who was not allowed to possess a firearm because of an earlier felony conviction for possession of a controlled substance.

This is the law that tripped up David Haywood.

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 law doesn’t define what a firearm is.

Haywood argues that a dictionary definition of firearm — “a weapon from which a shot is discharged by gunpowder” — should clear him because a BB gun doesn’t use gunpowder.

“Haywood’s argument might be persuasive if we were writing on a clean slate,” Judge Michelle Ann Larkin wrote in today’s opinion (pdf). However, Minnesota’s appellate courts have consistently interpreted the term “firearm” as used within certain sections of chapter 609 to include BB guns.”

In previous cases of a similar nature, the court has encouraged the Legislature to clarify the issue, but it has not done so, even though it was first alerted to the need eight years ago.

“We presume that the legislature’s inaction is with full knowledge and approval of existing caselaw applying the definition of firearm from the game-and-fish laws to certain sections of (the law cited above),” Larkin said.