Randy James Rardon appeals from a judgment of conviction finding him guilty of possession of a firearm by a felon contrary to
On July 21, 1991, police officers were dispatched to a home on the south side of Milwaukee. The officers were called to the scene by Rardon's mother following a dispute between Rardon and his sister. When the police arrived at the home, they were told that Rardon was upstairs in his bedroom and that he had a firearm in his possession.
After securing the area, the police moved into the house and arrested Rardon. A police officer then searched the bedroom and found a disassembled .25 caliber Raven semi-automatic handgun on the floor of a closet.
Rardon was subsequently transported to the police station for questioning. Rardon admitted that he had purchased the handgun some time in 1987. Rardon asserted, however, that the weapon had never worked because of a faulty firing pin.
A trial to the bench was held on October 12, 1992. The parties stipulated that Rardon was a convicted felon at the time of the present incident. Rardon argued that because the handgun was disassembled and inoperable at the time he was arrested, he should not be found guilty of possession of a firearm under § 941.29(2), STATS. The State responded that irrespective of operability, possession of the weapon amounted
The trial court agreed with the State, explaining:
Rardon now appeals.
The issue on appeal presents a question of statutory interpretation which we review independently of the trial court's determination. State v. Muniz, 181 Wis.2d 928, 931, 512 N.W.2d 252, 253 (Ct.App. 1994). When considering a statute, we must ascertain and give effect to the intent of the legislature. Id. In determining the legislature's intent, we first look to the language of the statute itself. Anderson v. School District of Ashland, 181 Wis.2d 502, 508, 510 N.W.2d 822, 824 (Ct. App. 1993). Only if the language is ambiguous will we resort to extrinsic aids to determine the legislature's intent. Id.
The key issue here is who this court should define the term "firearm." Rardon asserts that the statute should be read to define firearm as only including "operable firearms." Thus, Rardon argues, because he did not possess an operable firearm, he cannot be held to have violated § 941.29(2), STATS. We conclude that the legislature did not intend such a narrow interpretation of the statute.
As recognized by the parties, "firearm" is not defined under chapter 941. Indeed, the only statutory definition of firearm is found in § 167.31, STATS., wherein the legislature stated that firearm "means a weapon that acts by force of gunpowder." For our purposes here, that definition is sufficient to encompass the .25 caliber Raven semi-automatic pistol possessed by Rardon. As noted by the trial court, there is no question that the Raven pistol is a weapon that, if operational, "acts by force of gunpowder." This conclusion, however, does not fully answer the question on appeal, i.e., whether operability of the firearm is a necessary component for finding a felon guilty of § 941.29(2), STATS. Thus, our inquiry is not complete.
The Jury instruction pertaining to § 941.29(2), STATS., shed much light on the issue. Wis J I—CRIMINAL 1343 states, in relevant part: "It is not necessary that
Also relevant here is a recently decided case in which this court considered the question of whether a defendant could be convicted under the possession of a short barreled shotgun statute — § 941.28, STATS., — even if the shotgun possessed was inoperable due to a missing firing pin. State v. Johnson, 171 Wis.2d 175, 178, 491 N.W.2d 110, 111 (Ct.App. 1992). After considering the legislative intent of the statute, we concluded:
Id. at 183, 491 N.W.2d at 113-14.
Based on the above, we conclude that the term "firearm" is appropriately defined as a weapon that acts by force of gunpowder to fire a projectile irrespective of whether it is inoperable due to disassembly. This conclusion furthers the legislature's intention
Take for instance the individual who is wanted for a crime, but has chosen to barricade himself in his bedroom. The police have the individual surrounded but must be cautious while attempting to determine the most efficacious manner in which to take him into custody. The individual has a firearm in his possession and knows that he has been convicted of a felony in the past. To avoid the crime of possessing a firearm by a felon, utilizing Rardon's analysis, the individual simply holes up in his bedroom until he has succeeded in taking the firearm apart. Many weapons in today's society are easily taken apart. To allow the individual to escape liability for the above situation is clearly not what the legislature intended when drafting § 941.29(2), STATS. Thus, we refuse to adopt Rardon's analysis as to the definition of a firearm.
By the Court.—Judgment affirmed.