MCLAUGHLIN v. UNITED STATES

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
85-5189
Petitioner 
McLaughlin
Respondent 
United States
Opinion 
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

In the morning of July 26, 1984, Lamont McLaughlin and a companion, both wearing stocking masks, entered a bank in Baltimore. McLaughlin displayed a handgun and ordered everyone in the bank to put his hands up and not to move. While McLaughlin remained in the lobby area holding the gun, his companion placed about $3,400 in a brown paper bag. A police officer apprehended the two as they left the bank. The police then found that McLaughlin's gun was not loaded. Ultimately, McLaughlin pleaded guilty to charges of bank robbery and bank larceny and was found guilty of assault during a bank robbery "by the use of a dangerous weapon." The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Question 

Is an unloaded handgun a "dangerous weapon" within the meaning of the federal bank robbery statute?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for United States, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 18 U.S.C. 2113

Yes. In a unanimous opinion delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court held that an unloaded handgun is a "dangerous weapon" within the meaning of the federal bank robbery statute, 18 USC section 2113(d). The Court articulated three reasons supporting the conclusion that such a gun is a dangerous weapon: First, a gun is an article that is typically and characteristically dangerous. Second, the display of a gun instills fear in the average citizen. Finally, a gun can cause harm when used as a bludgeon.

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MCLAUGHLIN v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 23 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1985/1985_85_5189>.
MCLAUGHLIN v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1985/1985_85_5189 (last visited October 23, 2014).
"MCLAUGHLIN v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 23, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1985/1985_85_5189.