Staples v. United States
United States Supreme Court
511 U.S. 600 (1994)
Staples (defendant) possessed a semi-automatic rifle that originally had a metal piece preventing it from firing automatically. The metal piece had been filed down. As a result, the rifle met the statutory definition of a “firearm” under the National Firearms Act (the Act), 26 U.S.C. § 5861(d). The weapon was not registered, as required by the Act. Staples was charged criminally under the Act, which makes possession of an unregistered firearm punishable by up to ten years in prison. Staples claimed he did not know the rifle could be fired automatically. The trial judge refused to give Staples’s requested jury instruction, which stated that the government was required to prove that Staples “knew that the gun would fire fully automatically.” Instead, the judge instructed the jury that to sustain a conviction Staples only needed to know that he had a dangerous device that should have alerted him to the possibility of regulation. Staples was convicted, and the court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Thomas, J.)
Concurrence (Ginsburg, J.)
Dissent (Stevens, J.)
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