Minnesota Supreme Court: BB gun doesn't fit definition of gun

(file) BB gun. Photo released by Decatur, Illinois Police Dept.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a BB gun is not considered a firearm under Minnesota law. 

In reviewing the case of a man who was sentenced to five years in prison for illegally possessing a BB gun, the Supreme Court determined the plain meaning of the word “firearm” only includes devices that require explosive force and does not include air-powered BB guns.

David Haywood, 38, was charged in Ramsey County District Court in 2013 for possession of a firearm as an ineligible person.

According to the charges, St. Paul police pulled over and arrested Haywood for violating a no-contact order. Upon searching his vehicle, officers found a Walther CP99 Compact BB gun in the glove compartment of his car. The BB gun is considered an air-powered replica of the Walther P99 Compact, a semi-automatic pistol. 

Haywood had a prior felony conviction that prevented him from lawfully possessing a gun. He was convicted for illegal possession after the jury determined the BB gun was a firearm.

In his appeal, Haywood argued that various dictionaries define a firearm as weapon that uses gunpowder or some similar chemical explosive force, which a BB gun does not.

The Supreme Court overturned Haywood’s conviction on Wednesday, saying he was not breaking the law for possessing the BB gun because it is not a firearm.  

“We do not minimize the concerns [ ] that, regardless of the means of propulsion, a BB gun is capable of producing death and bodily harm,” the Supreme Court wrote in their decision. “But, that is arguably true of nail guns and other devices that use compressed air, as well.”

However, the Supreme Court says “the question of how to define a ‘firearm’ is best left to the Legislature.”