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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Minnesota Supreme Court to Take Up BB Gun Case

(CN) - The Minnesota Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of a man who was sentenced to five years in prison for illegally possessing a BB gun.

David Lee Haywood, 37, was charged in Ramsey County District Court in 2013 for possession of firearm by an ineligible felon based on a controlled substance conviction in 2005, according to the criminal complaint.

St. Paul Police discovered the Walther CP99 Compact .177 caliber BB gun in a glove box during Haywood's arrest for violating a no contact order, the complaint states.

The Walther CP99 was unloaded but CO2 was charged at the time of recovery, the court documents say.

Haywood argues that the BB gun is not a firearm under Minnesota statutes and that the statues are unconstitutionally vague. Ultimately, a jury found Haywood guilty and the district court sentenced him to serve five years in prison.

Haywood appealed, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's finding.

According to the 15-page opinion written by Michelle Ann Larkin, "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."

Haywood also argues that the dictionary definition as well as the plain and common usage of 'firearm' demonstrates that the statute is unambiguous. He relies on Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary dictionary definitions of firearm, including "a weapon from which a shot is discharged by gunpowder," according to the Sept. 28 appellate opinion.

The BB gun discharges compressed gas.

Haywood's argument might be persuasive if we were writing on a clean slate, the opinion states. However," Minnesota's appellate courts have consistently interpreted the term 'firearm' as used within certain sections of chapter 609 to include BB guns," the opinion states.

The opinion continued "For example, in State v. Seifert, the defendant pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery while armed with a dangerous weapon under Minn. Stat. § 609.245 (1974) and was subject to a minimum sentence under Minn. Stat. § 609.11 (1974), which authorized imposition of a minimum sentence if a defendant "'had in his possession a firearm or used a dangerous weapon at the time of the offense.'"

According to the opinion, the BB gun looks like a miniature version of a standard Walther P99. It also indicates that the BB gun has an effective range of approximately 350 yards and a substantial muzzle velocity.

Haywood is represented by public defender Thomas Handley Jr., who told Courthouse News he has no comment at this time.

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