Can I Face Criminal Charges for Shooting a BB Gun?

BB guns are often considered less dangerous than pistols, rifles, or shotguns, as they project small metallic balls without the use of gun powder. As such, many people, including the younger generation, often use these instruments for target practice or rodent control at their own homes. However, they might not consider that their actions could be a chargeable criminal offense.

BB guns have the capacity or seriously injure or kill an individual. Because of this, in Rhode Island, it is illegal to shoot a firearm in certain areas. If a person is accused of violating the law, they could be charged with a misdemeanor.

What Is a Firearm?

Rhode Island law explicitly defines a BB gun as a firearm.

Under Rhode Island General Law § 11-47-2, firearms include:

  • Machine guns
  • Pistols
  • Rifles
  • Air rifles
  • Air pistols
  • Blank guns
  • BB guns

The law also states that any instrument that discharges steel or metallic ammunition can be considered a firearm. Rhode Island's strict definition of firearms is intended to keep potentially deadly instruments out of the hands of minors and people prohibited from possessing such weapons, including individuals convicted of felonies or domestic violence offenses.

Shooting a BB Gun in Prohibited Areas

Because a BB gun is considered a firearm, shooting one in prohibited areas is a crime, a conviction for which could result in incarceration and/or fines. The statute concerning this type of conduct is Rhode Island General Law § 11-47-50. It provides that no person shall discharge a BB gun or other firearm in compact areas unless they are on land they own or on land on which they have received permission from the owner to fire the instrument. However, even if a person is shooting a BB gun on their own property (or have consent to shoot on someone else's property), if they are close to other dwellings, they could be charged with an offense.

For instance, suppose you are doing some target practice in your backyard. One of your shots misses the target and ends up going through your neighbor's living room window. Regardless of whether or not your neighbor was injured, you could still be charged with firing in a compact area.

In Rhode Island, firing in a compact area is a misdemeanor. If you're convicted, you could be sentenced to up to 1 year in prison and/or fined up to $500.

If you've been charged with a crime in Rhode Island, reach out to our skilled attorney. We have over a decade of experience and know what it takes to fight charges and seek favorable outcomes for the accused. To discuss your case, call The Law Office of Thomas C. Thomasian, Esq. at (401) 312-4385 or submit an online contact form today.