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Ken Tableman Law Blog

Are sawed-off shotguns inherently violent?

Last week the Supreme Court heard argument in Johnson v. United States, a case which poses the question of whether possession of a sawed-off shotgun qualifies as a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA").  This federal "three-strikes" statute imposes a mandatory 15-year sentence on persons convicted of unlawful firearm possession who have three prior qualifying convictions. A crime qualifies if itposes a serious potential risk of physical injury.

Surprisingly, according to the brief and oral arguments, thousands of people lawfully possess sawed-off shotguns.  And there is little statistical information toshowany correlation between possessing these weapons and the risk in injury.

The case may lead to a ruling that the ACCA is unconstitutionally vague because it is so hard to determine whether a potential crime fits the statutory language.

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