For want of a pin …

Here’s another story (via The Baltimore Sun) about a criminal going free on technicalities, and an unlucky citizen suffering as a result. “Michael R. Hunter Jr. pleaded guilty to having a .22-caliber revolver loaded with five bullets tucked in his waistband while walking along a city street on the evening of Oct. 25. Two Baltimore police officers saw him ditch the weapon in an alley near Greenmount Avenue.” Maryland has a law called Exile. It guarantees “hard time for gun crime”: five, ten or fifteen mandatory years without parole, depending on the offense. But in THIS case . . .

Moments after cops retrieved the revolver from the alley in October and slapped on the cuffs, Hunter, according to court charging documents, blurted out, “That gun doesn’t even work; it is missing a pin.”

I could see that being an excuse if he was carrying a box of broken, unloaded guns and parts in the trunk of his car, but this guy had priors and was essentially walking the streets carrying a loaded concealed weapon – that didn’t happen to work at that moment. But it was for the court to decide:

District Court Judge C. Yvonne Holt-Stone found Hunter guilty of illegally possessing a firearm.

Huh?

Isn’t a firearm a handgun?

Well, yes and no.

Handguns are firearms. Other guns are firearms, too. Firearms include everything from starter pistols to rifles, shotguns to assault weapons. And while a handgun has to be operable for someone to possess it illegally, a firearm can be illegal regardless of whether it can be fired.

But an illegal-firearm charge doesn’t carry the same stiff sanctions as an illegal-handgun charge.

Prosecutors asked Holt-Stone to sentence Hunter to two years in jail, with 21 months suspended.

The judge gave him two years, suspending 22 months. “I basically gave what the state asked,” she told me in an interview.

She noted that Hunter had a job, was working toward his high school equivalency degree and had no prior convictions but for a minor drug case as a juvenile.

Arrested in October, Hunter walked out of jail in December after paying $37.50 in court costs, and having served his time awaiting trial.

Did Hunter now realize the error of his ways? Unfortunately not:

Police said that four months later, on April 8, Hunter and an accomplice shot and killed Charles Bowman, a Vietnam War veteran and security guard at the Afro American newspaper, at the Waverly carryout.

Bowman was 72.

comments

  1. avatar Monte says:

    Know what breaks the firing pin on a revolver?

    Dry fires.

    Repeated dry fires.

    When there's no cartridge (primer) in the chamber to stop the forward progress of the pin, it will eventually break.

    In just about every case of a broken firing pin, the gunsmith will ask, "Dry fire it much?" And the answer will always be, "Once in awhile." Or, "Just once."

    Uh-huh.

    Two conclusions to this story: A) Mr. Hunter spent a lot of time "practicing" with his firearm, dry firing it, preparing for his crime sprees (in fact, we see what his original intent was by the fact he eventually did rob and kill someone), B) If you, a responsible gun owner, want to practice proper trigger press, surprise break, and other trigger control exercises without actually firing your piece, invest in some dummy cartridges to put in the chamber lest you unwittingly break your pin and your piece fails to go bang when you need it to.

    1. avatar Donal Fagan says:

      Good to know, thanks.

  2. avatar Martin Albright says:

    Sounds more like a lazy prosecutor than a failure of gun laws.

  3. avatar William C Montgomery says:


    Monte:

    Know what breaks the firing pin on a revolver?
    Dry fires.
    Repeated dry fires.
    When there’s no cartridge (primer) in the chamber to stop the forward progress of the pin, it will eventually break.
    In just about every case of a broken firing pin, the gunsmith will ask, “Dry fire it much?” And the answer will always be, “Once in awhile.” Or, “Just once.”
    Uh-huh.

    I think you’re talking about dry firing S&Ws. They use too many fragile internal part — especially their firing pins, which break easily. As far as I know they’re the only gun manufacturer that discourages dry firing of their weapons. Every other manufacturer engineers their firing pins robust enough that they can tolerate dry firing — some even encourage it.

  4. avatar Monte says:

    Colts, Rugers, and yes, Smiths…firing pin breaks.

    And yeah, I know some makers are so confident in their firing pins, they’ll say you can dry fire all day long and twice on Tuesdays.

    Same with bow-makers. Sure, go ahead. We dry-fired this bow 10,000 times and the limbs didn’t break.

    But I, for one, don’t believe in dry fires, even when the manufacturer claims it’s okay to do (and are you SURE the firearm you own comes with such an endorsement? Or did when it was new?).

    So I always advocate a blanket policy for all my firearms (and bows, for that matter): Don’t dry fire them.

    Cuz I absolutely, positively want the one in my hand to go bang when I need it to. And would hate for it not to because I confused one gun for the other — or took the manufacturer’s word that it’d never fail. And how often have those been strung together to form famous last-ones?

    Dummy rounds, with the spring loaded dummy primers, are a couple bucks each. Cheap insurance vs repair and vs failure.

  5. avatar William C Montgomery says:

    I don’t know how the prosecutor or judge could have adjudicated this any differently. What’s the difference between an inoperable gun and a prop gun. Or a realistic toy. The fact is that the firearm he had tucked into his waistband when he was collared was harmless other than as a club.

    The fact that this same scum-bag committed murder a few months later with a functioning gun is beside the point (i.e. in this country you can’t get convicted of crime you are about to commit – at least not yet).

  6. avatar Donal Fagan says:

    Sounds like the smart move is to dry fire your revolver before ditching it.

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