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MCLAUGHLIN v. UNITED STATES

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES


decided: April 29, 1986.

MCLAUGHLIN
v.
UNITED STATES

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT.

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

Author: Stevens

[ 476 U.S. Page 16]

 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 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.

[ 476 U.S. 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."*fn1 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. ยง 2113(d). The Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court, and so do we.*fn2

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

[ 476 U.S. Page 18]

     of a gun instills fear in the average citizen;*fn3 as a consequence, it creates an immediate danger that a violent response will ensue. Finally, a gun can cause harm when used as a bludgeon.

Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is

Affirmed.

Disposition

Affirmed.


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