How far from a building is okay to shoot a gun?

The Second Amendment to the US Constitution gives all citizens the right to bear arms. However, even though you have a constitutional right to own and use a gun, states can regulate when and how people may lawfully use one. In Massachusetts, the police take improperly using a firearm seriously.

There are many crimes related to misusing a gun. Today, we will talk about the crime of discharging a gun within 500 feet of a building.

Is there a law on how far from a building I need to be to shoot a gun?

Yes, there is. In Massachusetts under General Laws Chapter 269, Section 12E it is illegal to shoot or “discharge” a gun within 500 feet of a building without permission of the owner or person occupying it. A gun includes any:

  • Pistol or handgun
  • Rifle
  • Shotgun

The reason this law exists is to protect people inside houses or buildings from getting injured or hurt. If you are convicted of this crime, you could be punished by:

  • A fine of $50-$100
  • Time in a jail or house of correction for up to 3 months

What counts as a building?

The law says that you cannot shoot a gun within 500 feet of a “dwelling” or “other building in use” without consent of the owner or legal occupant. A “dwelling” is simply a place where someone lives, like a house or an apartment. A “building in use” could include things like:

  • An office
  • A store
  • A mall
  • A gym
  • A school

Will I get in trouble if the ammo isn’t live?

If the ammunition isn’t “live” (doesn’t shoot a projectile) you could still get in trouble for violating this law. Even if you shoot a gun with blank rounds within 500 feet of a building without permission, you could be prosecuted.

Are there any exceptions to this law?

Yes, there are some exceptions. If the owner or occupant gives you permission to shoot a gun within 500 feet of their building, you are not breaking the law. Specifically, the law states that there are six other reasons:

  • You are shooting a gun to lawfully defend life or property
  • You are a law enforcement officer shooting a gun while in the line of duty
  • You are shooting in an underground or indoor target or test range with the consent of the owner or legal occupant
  • You are shooting using outdoor skeet, trap, target, or test ranges with the consent of the owner or legal occupant of the land
  • You are shooting a gun in a licensed shooting gallery
  • You are shooting blank cartridges for theatrical, athletic, or ceremonial reasons (ex: as part of a parade) or as part of a licensed fireworks display

Is it a crime if I didn’t know that I was shooting within 500 feet of a building?

Yes, it still is. With this crime, not knowing that you were shooting within 500 feet of a building is not a valid excuse.

What are the defenses to this crime?

Fortunately, there are criminal defenses to this crime. Your attorney will break down what happened and what is known, considering information like:

  • Is there evidence that a firearm was discharged?
  • Is there evidence that you were the person police say discharged the firearm?
  • Does the gun that went off belong to you?
  • Did you have the gun that went off in your possession when it went off?
  • Were you within 500 feet of a dwelling or other building in use?
  • Did you have permission from the owner of the building or buildings to shoot?
  • Did you have any other of the six valid reasons to shoot?

The 500 feet requirement is measured in a straight line from the point where the gun went off to the nearest location of the building’s structure. Remember that it is the job of the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were within 500 feet of a building. If you were not, you cannot be convicted of this crime.

IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A FIREARMS OFFENSE, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.

CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.

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