Can modifying your gun land you in hot water with the legal system? You see this discussion in online forums all the time. Half the participants want you to believe that any gun modification will cause prosecutors to paint you as a trigger-happy lunatic. The other half seem to think that any reasonable modification can be explained to the jury.
Modified Guns at Trial
If you’re in a self-defense shooting that goes to trial, the prosecutor will more than likely want to have your gun examined by a technical expert. This expert will generally examine the gun to make sure it’s functioning correctly, test fire it, and take specifications from it, often including the weight of the trigger pull.
Remember, most prosecuting attorneys’ goal is to win, and if that means introducing evidence to make you sound like a cold-blooded killer, they will.
What if your carry gun had a significantly modified trigger? “He carried this gun with a hair-trigger to make it easier to kill.” Legally, if deadly force is justified, it doesn’t matter whether the trigger pull is 1 pound or 20 pounds … even though the other side may argue differently.
In the George Zimmerman trial, the prosecuting attorney alleged that Zimmerman carried his gun “with a round in the chamber, in the ready to fire position.” Sure, you know that’s how most firearms are designed to be carried. Now imagine the prosecutor is telling a jury about your modified everyday carry gun. Do you trust the jury to understand why it was modified?
We tend to focus on trigger modifications because those are the most common modifications people make to their pistols. For years, light trigger pulls have been demonized in fictional media and eschewed by law enforcement administrators.
In 1987, the New York Times published an article on the new revolvers that were issued to the NYPD. What made these revolvers significant is they were double action only, per NYPD’s specifications. Unlike most commercial revolvers, these guns couldn’t be cocked for a lighter trigger pull.
That culture continued at NYPD with the adoption of the (in)famous Glock “NY+” trigger system, which took a perfectly serviceable Glock 5-pound trigger pull and ruined it by making the pull approximately 12 pounds. It doesn’t require a stretch of the imagination to see a prosecutor point at your gun with its modified 3.5-pound trigger and say, “Police don’t have triggers that light; why should the defendant?”
Don’t Forget About Civil Suits
You don’t have to be a criminal defendant to worry that your modification will be used against you. In 1973 in California, a gun owner was sued for negligence when his carry pistol discharged during a motor vehicle incident.
According to documents, the defendant, Wayne Partridge had modified his S&W .357 Magnum so that the gun would have a “hair trigger action.” The gun discharged when driving over a bumpy road and injured a third party. At trial, Partridge was found to be negligent due to his modifying of the gun.
It’s Not About You
At trial, it doesn’t matter why your carry gun was modified. What matters is why the jury believes it was modified. That’s why a competent self-defense attorney is so important.
U.S. LawShield Independent Program attorneys are all well-versed in the area of self-defense. They have the legal knowledge and technical understanding to help a jury understand why your modified firearm isn’t a liability.