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The Puzzle: Dissembling and Assembling Firearms and Indiana Firearm Law

Most of us have a general, and practical, understanding of the definition of a handgun or a firearm.  However, under Indiana law, those terms have precise definitions.  A handgun is defined under Indiana Code 35-47-1-6 as any firearm capable of being fired with one hand or having certain measurements.  More generally, Indiana Code 35-47-1-5 defines a “firearm” as “any weapon that is capable of or designed to or that may readily be converted to expel a projectile by means of an explosion.”

So, what if a handgun or a firearm is disassembled?  Is the person that possess the parts of that firearm still legally possessing a firearm under Indiana law?  

That issue was addressed in the Indiana Court of Appeals in Staten v. State, 844 N.E.2d 186 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006).  In that case, an individual was approached by law enforcement.  After consenting to a search, police found a disassembled Derringer firearm in a purse inside the car.  Id at 186.  At trial, the Prosecution presented video evidence showing that the firearm in that case could be readily assembled and fired it in a matter of seconds.  Staten asserted that because it was disassembled, it was not a gun or a firearm under Indiana law.  The Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed and found “although it was disassembled, the pieces, upon reassembly, could ‘readily [have been] converted to expel a projectile by means of an explosion.’” Id. (citing I.C. 35-57-1-5).  

It is not entirely clear from the Staten decision what state of assembly, or disassembly, is necessary to render pieces of a firearm no longer a “firearm.”  And certainly one could envision a different type of firearm other than a Derringer, or a state of disassembly, that would not be readily converted to expel a projectile by means of explosion.  However, Staten makes it clear that possession of a disassembled firearm does not necessarily mean that one is not still in possession of a firearm.  

Contact us today if you have questions or believe your constitutional, criminal, or firearms rights have been violated.  We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized case.  Act now and contact us today at 1-800-NOT-GUILTY or (317) 857-0160.