July 28, 1998 98-R-0904
FROM: Lawrence K. Furbish, Assistant Director
RE: BB Guns, Air Rifles, and Dangerous Weapons
You asked what the difference is between an air rifle and a BB gun. Your question is in relation to the fact the current dangerous weapons statutes treat these two weapons inconsistently.
BB guns and air rifles are similar but not identical. They each shoot an individual small pellet through the use of compressed air. In a BB gun the compression is mechanical, caused by a spring that is compressed by pulling a lever and then released when the trigger is pulled forcing a piston forward in the barrel causing the compression and expelling the pellet. An air rifle uses cartridges of compressed CO2 gas in place of the spring and piston to produce the force to shoot the pellet.
BB guns and air rifles are specifically listed as dangerous weapons in CGS § 53-206, which prohibits people from carrying dangerous weapons without a permit. They are not in the list of dangerous weapons in CGS § 29-38, which prohibits carrying dangerous weapons in a vehicle without a permit, nor are they specifically listed in CGS § 53a-3 under the definitions of “deadly weapon” or “dangerous instrument” used in the penal code.
However, this inconsistency may not be significant because both § 29-38 and § 53-206 contain, in addition to the list of specific weapons, the phrase “any other dangerous weapon or deadly instrument.” In a series of cases the courts have construed these three statutes, finding that some weapons are deadly or dangerous per se while others are deadly or dangerous under the circumstances in which they are used. This usually is a fact determination to be made by the jury, or the judge in a non-jury trial. The courts have, in specific cases based on particular circumstances, found a garden hose, a can opener, and a house key to be dangerous instruments.
Attached is a copy of 98-R-0898, which contains a more detailed discussion of the various definitions of dangerous weapons and court decisions construing them.