BB guns have become increasingly popular in the commission of crimes. This is largely due to the fact that many BB guns resemble real guns and are easier to obtain. This trend may continue to grow as a result of a recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision which held that a BB gun is not considered a firearm.
Firearms and BB Guns
In the case of Commonwealth v. Garrett, the defendant was convicted of armed robbery with a firearm while masked. The defendant had committed robberies of various stores while using a BB gun. He appealed the conviction, arguing that a BB gun was not a firearm and the Supreme Judicial court agreed. This was important because there is less serious punishment due to the ruling that the defendant was not carrying a firearm.
The court noted that the armed robbery statute did not contain a definition of firearm. As a result of this, the court examined all of the laws related to firearms and determined that regulation of BB guns has been entirely different than that of firearms. For example, Massachusetts has a separate law aimed mainly at addressing the issue of minors misusing BB guns.
Additionally, the court discussed the law prohibiting an individual from possessing a firearm near a school. The statute specifically defines firearm, which the court, in a previous decision, held included BB guns, even though they were not expressly mentioned. The court noted that the Legislature did not include such a definition for the sentencing enhancement statute related to armed robbery. Therefore, there was no intent to bring BB guns within the firearm definition for the offense of armed robbery.
The Massachusetts Gun Control Act of 1998 did not mention BB guns and discussed airguns only once, in relation to a requirement to report injuries. This was also an indication to the court that the Legislature intended regulation of firearms and BB guns to be separate from each other. Finally, the court reasoned that treating BB guns like firearms would produce unintended results, such as:
Only licensed dealers would be able to sell BB guns;
The purchase of a BB gun would require a mandatory background check; and
All BB guns would need to have serial identification numbers on them.
The result of this ruling is that it will be left to the Legislature to enact a law that specifically brings BB guns within the definition of firearms. The court’s explanation of its ruling was, in essence, that the Legislature has not indicated an intention that BB guns and firearms be treated the same. However, with how similar some BB guns look to real guns and the increased use of them in connection with criminal activity, it is likely that this issue will be addressed by the Legislature.
If you have been accused of violating a law related to firearms, you face the potential for serious consequences. As a result, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. To schedule a free consultation with Boston criminal defense attorney Edward R. Molari, call our office at 617-942-1532. We look forward to hearing from you.