SAWED-OFF RIFLES OR SHOTGUNS
The “sawed-off” shotgun is a staple in television and movies. However, in real life, they are illegal to make or own, and convictions for doing so are severe and include jail time and harsh fines.
What is the legal definition of making or possessing a ‘sawed-off’ rifle or shotgun?
The laws relating to making or possessing a ‘sawed-off’ rifle or shotgun are governed by NRS 202.253, and 202.275.
NRS 202.253 – Definitions.
As used in NRS 202.253 to 202.369, inclusive:
- “Explosive of incendiary device” means any explosive or incendiary device material or substance that has been constructed, altered, packaged or arranged in such a manner that its ordinary use would cause destruction or injury to life or property.
- “Firearm” means any device designed to be used as a weapon from which a projectile may be expelled through the barrel by the force of any explosion or other form of combustion.
- “Firearm capable of being concealed upon the person” applies to and includes all firearms having a barrel less than 12 inches in length.
- “Motor vehicle” means every vehicle that is self-propelled.
NRS 202.275 – Possession, manufacture or disposition of short-barreled rifle or short-barreled shotgun: Penalty; exceptions.
- Except as otherwise provided in subsection 3, a person who knowingly or willfully possesses, manufactures, or disposes of any short-barreled rifle or short-barreled shotgun is guilty of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193130.
- For purposes of this section:
- “Short-barreled rifle” means:
- A rifle having one or more barrels less than 16 inches in length; or
- Any weapon made from a rifle, whether by alteration, modification or other means, with an overall length of less than 26 inches.
- “Short-barreled shotgun” means”
- A shotgun having one or more barrels less than 18 inches in length; or
- Any weapon made from a shotgun, whether by alteration, modification or other means, with an overall length of less than 26 inches.
- “Short-barreled rifle” means:
- This section does not prohibit:
- The possession or use of any short-barreled rifle or short-barreled shotgun by any peace officer when authorized to do so in the performance of official duties;
- The possession of any short-barreled rifle or short-barreled shotgun by a person who is licensed as a firearms importer, manufacturer, collector or dealer by the United States Department of the Treasury, or by a person to whom such rifle or shotgun is registered with the United States Department of the Treasury; or
- The possession of any short-barreled rifle or short-barreled shotgun that has been determined to be a collector’s item pursuant to 26 U.S.C. Chapter 53 or a curio or relic pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44.
I’ve heard the term “sawed-off shotgun,” but what does that mean?
NRS 202.275 actually differentiates between 4 different types of “short-barreled rifles or shotguns”.
- A short barreled rifle is exactly what it sounds like, a rifle with a “short” barrel. For the purposes of NRS 202.275, this means any rifle barrel that measures less than 16 inches in length (rifles have a typical length of between 22 and 24 inches);
- Any firearm made from a rifle which has an overall length of less than 26 inches;
- A short-barreled, or “sawed-off” shotgun is exactly what it sounds like, a shotgun with at least 1 barrel that has been “sawed off” or shortened to less than 18 inches in length (as with rifles, shotgun barrels typically average between 22 and 24 inches in length);
- Any firearm made from a shotgun which has an overall length of less than 26 inches.
Please Note: Even though these guns are often termed “sawed-off,” the barrels do not, in fact, have to be shortened after the gun has been manufactured. The manufacture of a barrel that is less than 16 inches (for a rifle) or 18 inches (for a shotgun) is a violation of NRS 202.275.
Why does it matter if a rifle or shotgun has had the barrel shortened?
Generally, people believe that short-barreled rifles or shotguns are made smaller for the purposes of concealment. While this is certainly an added benefit, short-barreled rifles and shotguns are outlawed because of the effect that a shorter barrel has on the speed of the bullet. The shorter-barreled gun allows the bullet to travel faster, and therefore cause more damage with its target. Coupled with the relative ease of concealment, this added speed to the bullet makes short-barreled rifles and shotguns especially dangerous.
What are the possible penalties?
The possession, manufacture, or distribution of a short-barreled rifle or shotgun is a category D felony in Nevada, which carries with it a possible penalty of:
- Between 1 and 4 years in prison; and
- Possible fines up to $5,000.
Are there any Defenses?
Yes, of course there are. Generally, the defenses revolve around being legally allowed to possess the firearm Some of the possible defenses include:
- Peace Officer – A Peace Officer who possesses a short-barreled rifle or shotgun within the legal performance of his or her duties, is not in violation of NRS 202.275.
- Dealer/Collector – In certain instances, firearms dealers, importers, manufacturers, or collectors can possess such short-barreled rifles or shotguns legally. However, the person must first be licensed by the United States in their capacity as a dealer, importer, manufacturer or collector of firearms, and the firearm must be registered with the United States Department of the Treasury.
- Collector’s Item – If the firearm has been deemed a collector’s item, pursuant to 26 U.S.C. Chapter 53, or a curio or relic pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, then it is not a violation of NRS 202.275. However, as should be obvious, the firearm must still be registered as a collector’s item, curio or relic before such possession is legal.
- Lack of Evidence – As with any crime, the prosecution bears the burden of proving every element of the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If there is not enough evidence to uphold this high level of proof, then the charges should be dropped or dismissed.
What should I do if I’ve been charged with Possession of a short barreled rifle or shotgun?
As with any crime, it is very important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so that you can discuss the specific circumstances as well as any defenses that may apply to your case.