When Does a Gun Stop Being a Gun?

Kareem Barlow was convicted of Possession of a Firearm as a Convicted Felon in Newport News, Virginia.  On appeal his criminal lawyers argued that the “gun” in his possession was not really a gun.  It had no barrel and was in an rusty and poor condition.  It could not shoot a bullet. (Actual operability of the gun is not a factor for a conviction of this crime; the question was ‘when does a gun stop being a gun?’)

The Court of Appeals held that the the gun fragment in this case was a gun, as defined by the law in Virginia Code sec. 18.2-308.2.  It reasoned that the fragment was designed, made, and intended to expel a projectile by means of an explosion; a barrel is easy to remove and replace; and a magazine with bullets was located nearby.  If a gun fragment retains its characteristics as a firearm, it is a gun.  The conviction was affirmed.

The case was Barlow v. Commonwealth, 0666-12-1 (April 2, 2013).

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