A three-judge panel in Arizona has determined the legal definition of a “loaded” firearm, ruling that a gun can be loaded even without a live round in the chamber.
The Arizona Court of Appeals came to this determination while upholding the conviction of Bo Lucas Johnson, who argued that the legality of his possession of a firearm on school grounds could not be determined due to the state’s vague definition of a “loaded” firearm.
Arizona law states that a person commits a “misconduct involving weapons” by knowingly possessing a deadly weapon on school grounds. But the law makes an exception if the firearm is not “loaded” and “is carried within a means of transportation under the control of an adult.”
Johnson argued that since the law does not specify whether a “loaded” handgun must have a round in the chamber, his misconduct involving weapons charge should be dropped. Johnson attorney’s cited Utah’s definition of “loaded,” which reads, in part, “when there is an unexpended cartridge, shell, or projectile in the firing position.” The California legislature has also spelled out their definition of a “loaded” firearm to include any firearm that has live ammunition in the magazine.
Johnson’s side argued that because Arizona law does not contain a similarly explicit definition, the current statue is unconstitutionally vague.
Appeals Court Judge Philip Espinosa disagreed. He ruled in the unanimous majority opinion that even though other states have chosen to define the term “loaded,” the Arizona legislature did not, which calls for the use of the “common sense” definition of “containing ammunition.” The term, therefore, is not unconstitutionally vague.
The language of Arizona’s law, Espinosa continued, “provides people of ordinary intelligence with sufficient notice and a definite warning that deadly weapons, which [the statute] expressly defines to include firearms, are not permitted on school property.”
The incident in question occurred in September of 2014. Johnson and another individual became involved in a verbal conflict while on the road. When they encountered each other the next day in a school parking lot, the individual approached Johnson’s truck and saw Johnson “handling” a firearm. He also claimed Johnson said something to the effect of, “driving like that will get you shot.”
Johnson was reported to the police, who determined that his firearm had live rounds in the magazine but not in the chamber. He was eventually convicted of one count of threatening or intimidating as well as a misconduct involving weapons. Grass Valley Justice Court place him on probation, fined him, and required him to attend four sessions of an anger management class.
Johnson can appeal the court’s decision to the Arizona Supreme Court.