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Broken gun still a firearm for felon-conviction purposes

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A gun that can no longer shoot is still a gun for purposes of federal firearms convictions, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

The court affirmed a conviction of felon in possession of a firearm and a 188-month federal prison sentence in United States of America v. Steven Dotson, 12-2945.

Judge Richard Posner wrote for the panel that an inoperable gun that still could have been repaired met the statutory requirement that someone may be convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) for possessing “any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.”

Posner wrote that Dotson “confuses ‘design’ with 'object' when he says in his brief that ‘the design [of his gun] has been so altered that the original purpose for which it was intended no longer exists.’ The object has been altered, but not the design.”

In affirming the conviction, Posner said the government was on shaky ground arguing in essence that a gun is always a gun. “But what if the gun is so damaged that it can’t be restored? What if it’s just a heap of twisted metal barely even recognizable as having once been a gun?”

Posner also offered for supposition an illustration of a realistic gun fashioned into a lighter. He further referenced news accounts of toys being converted into working guns. Those items weren’t “designed” as firearms per the statute.

“Surely the government doesn’t think that a felon who owns a gun that started life as a toy gun but now shoots real bullets can’t be convicted of being a felon in possession,” Posner wrote.
 

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  • Bad Gun?
    This story is ambiguous in that it does say where the gun was. The Indiana constitution states that even an exfelon has the right to protect himself in his own home and the 2nd amendment to the CONSTITUTIONN THE UNITED STATES that the people have the right to bear arms, PERIOD!!!

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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