Illegal Firearm Possession
The issue in this case was whether a group of disassembled shotgun parts lacking a connecting stock bolt and washer is a “firearm” under the law that prohibits certain people convicted of a felony from possessing firearms, Minn. Stat. § 609.165, subd. 1b(a). Law enforcement investigators found a disassembled 20-gauge shotgun in a backpack belonging to defendant, who is ineligible to possess a firearm because he was previously convicted of a crime of violence. A forensic scientist with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension used a bolt and a washer from a similar firearm to fully assemble and successfully fire the shotgun found in the backpack. A jury found defendant guilty of one count of possession of a firearm by an ineligible person under § 609.165, subd. 1b(a). In a precedential opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed defendant’s conviction, concluding that a group of unassembled and incomplete shotgun parts is a “firearm” within the meaning of the statute, so long as it is possible to assemble the parts into a firearm as defined by case law.
The Supreme Court held that (1) under Minn. Stat. § 609.165, subd. 1b(a), which criminalizes the possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a crime of violence, a group of disassembled and incomplete shotgun parts can be a “firearm”—an instrument designed for attack or defense that expels a projectile by some explosive force; and (2) the evidence was sufficient to support defendant’s conviction under § 609.165, subd. 1b(a), despite the firearm being disassembled and incomplete. Affirmed.