In the introduction of my series of blogs pertaining to firearms, gun possession and other weapons charges, I discussed the need for experienced and competent legal representation. I also explained that Tilem & Campbell’s Senior Partner Peter Tilem was formerly an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan and worked extensively in the Gun Trafficking Unit.

In this blog I will discuss the legal definition of a “machine gun”. Offenses pertaining to firearms and other dangerous weapons are found in Article 265 of the New York State Penal Law. Section 265.00 of the Penal Law (which is the first section of Article 265) contains the definitions for terms used in Article 265 as well as Article 400 of the Penal Law.

MACHINE GUN – NY PL § 265.00(1)
For purposes of Article 265 and 400 of the Penal Law, a machine gun means any weapon irregardless of its description, size or name, whether loaded or unloaded from which bullets or shots may be continuously and rapidly fired with one continuous pull of the trigger. This definition includes a sub-machine gun. (For the exact definition of a machine gun see NY PL § 265.00(1))

Recently in District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S.Ct. 2783 (2008), the United States Supreme Court found unconstitutional on Second Amendment grounds a District of Columbia’s ban on one’s possession of a firearm in one’s home. However, the Supreme Court indicated that the Second Amendment does not protect firearms not typically possessed by lawful individuals for lawful purposes. Accordingly, the Heller, decision noted that machine guns, M-16s and short-barrel shotguns were not protected by the Second Amendment.

However, unlike the definition of a “firearm” (discussed in a future blog) an interesting point about the definition of a machine gun is that it must be operable. Indeed, to paraphrase the definition, a machine gun must be a weapon from which a shot or number of bullets may be rapidly or automatically discharged. (NY PL § 265.00(1)).

In future blogs pertaining to machine guns, I will be discussing some of the charges one might face for possession of an operable machine gun (Penal Law § 265.01(2)) as well as possession of an operable machine gun with intent to use it unlawfully against another person. (Penal Law § 265.03(1)(a)).

As always, if you have been arrested or think you might be wanted for any type of firearm, gun, or other weapons charge, contact Tilem & Cambpell toll free at 1-888-ANY-CRIME or visit us on the web at or

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