476 U.S. 16 (1986), 85-5189, McLaughlin v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 85-5189
Citation:476 U.S. 16, 106 S.Ct. 1677, 90 L.Ed.2d 15, 54 U.S.L.W. 4407
Party Name:McLaughlin v. United States
Case Date:April 29, 1986
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 16

476 U.S. 16 (1986)

106 S.Ct. 1677, 90 L.Ed.2d 15, 54 U.S.L.W. 4407



United States

No. 85-5189

United States Supreme Court

April 29, 1986

Argued March 31, 1986




On the basis of his display of an unloaded handgun in the course of a bank robbery, petitioner was convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 2113(d), which provides an enhanced penalty for assault by use of a "dangerous weapon" during a bank robbery.

Held: An unloaded handgun is a "dangerous weapon" within the meaning of § 2113(d). Pp. 17-18.

Affirmed .

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

STEVENS, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented is whether an unloaded handgun is a "dangerous weapon" within the meaning of the federal bank robbery statute.

At about 9:30 a.m. on July 26, 1984, petitioner and a companion, both wearing stocking masks and gloves, entered a bank in Baltimore. Petitioner thereupon displayed a dark handgun and ordered everyone in the bank to put his hands up and not to move. While petitioner remained in the lobby area holding the gun, his companion [106 S.Ct. 1678] vaulted the counter and placed about $3,400 in a brown paper bag. The two robbers were apprehended by a police officer as they left the bank. Petitioner's gun was not loaded.

Page 17

Petitioner pleaded guilty to charges of bank robbery and bank larceny and, on the basis of stipulated evidence, was found guilty of assault during a bank robbery "by the use of a dangerous weapon."1 The latter conviction depends on the validity of the District Court's conclusion that petitioner's unloaded gun was a "dangerous weapon" within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(d). The Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court, and so do we.2

Three reasons, each independently sufficient, support the conclusion that an unloaded gun is a "dangerous weapon." First, a gun is an article that is typically and characteristically dangerous; the use for which it is manufactured and sold is a dangerous one, and the law reasonably may presume that such an article is always dangerous, even though it may not be armed at a particular time or place. In addition, the display

Page 18

of a gun instills fear in the average citizen;3 as a...

To continue reading