Is a Pellet Gun a Deadly Weapon?

Knoxville (WVLT) - A decision on a Knoxville case could set precedence around the state, even across the US.

The State Supreme Court says a pellet gun is no longer considered a deadly weapon.

Volunteer TV’s Kim Bedford spoke with the Fraternal Order of Police about how this could affect the officers’ safety and yours.

The high court ruling comes after a suicide-by-cop attempt in West Knoxville nearly four years ago.

Because of Thomas McGouey's actions, a pellet gun will now only be considered deadly if the defendant intended to cause serious harm or death.

The question now for FOP president, Stan McCroskey, how do you know? "If a gun's pointed at me, in my mind, he's intending to shoot me, possibly take my life."

But in September of 2003, Thomas McGouey was hoping officers would take his life, so he pointed a pellet gun at them and a hail of gunfire came at him from deputies.

"You have that nanosecond to decide if it's a pellet gun or not? And it's pointed in your direction?” McCroskey says.

McGouey survived and now the Supreme Court ruled he had no intention to harm or kill, therefore the pellet gun was not deadly.

"I disagree with what the justices came out with, but that's their decision, and hopefully they won't have to use that decision when it comes to the death of an officer or someone else.” Fraternal Order of Police President Stan McCroskey says the new ruling makes officers jobs even more dangerous, "It has the potential of getting officers killed and other innocent people killed."

Pellet guns come in all shapes and sizes, and McCroskey says they could easily be mistaken for a real gun or rifle. "Almost identical. Some of the bores are the same size."

And as soon as an officer sees something that looks like a gun pointed at him, McCroskey says they're trained to do one thing, "We're not trained to wound. We're trained to shoot to kill."

The high court say the defendant's intent must be to harm or kill for a pellet gun to be a deadly weapon, "I would not flaunt a pellet gun jokingly, particularly in front of police,” McCroskey says.

After McGouey survived his suicide attempt, he battled liver cancer and died this June.

His convictions were reduced from felonies to misdemeanors, so this ruling could change a lot of things in the future.

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