The Minnesota Supreme Court is set to take on a case that will determine whether a BB gun is considered a firearm as it pertains to felons who have had their gun rights stripped due to a prior conviction.
37-year-old Minnesota resident David Lee Haywood was sentenced to five years in prison for possession of firearm by an ineligible felon during a 2013 incident in which officers found a Walther CP99 Compact .177 caliber BB gun in the glove box of his vehicle while arresting him for violating the terms of a no contact order.
Haywood’s gun rights had been stripped in 2005 following his conviction on felony drug charges. He is being represented in the case by public defender Thomas Handley Jr.
Courthouse News Service notes that Haywood was convicted on the firearms charge by Ramsey County District Court and that his conviction was subsequently upheld by the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Haywood claims that Minnesota statutes’ definition of a firearm is unconstitutionally vague and noted that Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the word as “a weapon from which a shot is discharged by gunpowder,” which differs from a BB gun which discharges via compressed gas.
In affirming the conviction, Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge Michelle Ann Larkin wrote in her opinion, “Minnesota’s appellate courts have consistently interpreted the term ‘firearm’ as used within certain sections of chapter 609 to include BB guns.”
She pointed to a case as precedent in which a man who committed a robbery with a BB gun pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery while armed with a dangerous weapon and was given a minimum sentence based on the interpretation that his possession of a BB gun constituted a firearm.
“The record indicates that the BB gun looks like a miniature version of a standard Walther P99 [pistol]. The record also indicates that the BB gun has an effective range of approximately 350 yards and a substantial muzzle velocity,” wrote Judge Larkin.
Characterizing Haywood’s appellate argument, Judge Larkin added, “Haywood argues that the district court erroneously concluded that the BB gun in this case qualifies as a firearm under the statute and that the district court therefore erred by denying his motion to dismiss and by instructing the jury that a BB gun is a firearm under Minnesota law.“