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The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)



Opinion No. 5958

August 14, 1981


12-guage flare launcher

A 12-gauge flare launcher is a 'firearm' under Michigan Law and, as a pistol, is subject to purchase inspection and carrying restrictions applicable thereto.

Robert L. Kaczmarek

Prosecuting Attorney

County of Saginaw

111 S. Michigan Avenue

Saginaw, MI 48602

I am writing in response to your request for my opinion regarding the applicability of state firearm laws to the 'Olin' 12-gauge flare launcher. Specifically, you have acked whether this device is a 'firearm' under Michigan law and therefore subject to the purchase, inspection and carrying restrictions which apply to the more conventional firearms of similar size and character.

The term 'firearm' is defined by the Legislature in RS 1846, c 1, Sec. 3t, MCLA 8.35; MSA 2.212(20) which provides in pertient part:

'The word 'firearm', except as otherwise specifically defined in the statutes, shall be construed to include any weapon from which a dangerous projectile may be propelled by using explosives, gas or air as a means of propulsion. . . .'

Since the term 'firearm' is not 'otherwise specifically defined' in the pertinent firearms statute, the above definition is controlling for purposes of this opinion.

The aerial flare launcher you describe is clearly capable of propelling a dangerous projectile by one of the methods of propulsion specified in RS 1846, c 1, Sec. 3t, supra. Indeed, at the request of State Representative Patrick L. Harrington, the Department of State Police tested the specific device to which you refer. Those tests (Appendix A) reveal that the device is quite capable of inflicting injury if used against the person of another. In fact, by reinforcing the barrel, the device was capable of firing a modified 12-gauge shotgun shell.

1927 PA 372, Sec. 1(a), MCLA 28.421(a); MSA 28.91 defines the term 'pistol' to mean 'any firearm, loaded or unloaded, 30 inches or less in length, or any firearm, loaded or unloaded, which by its construction and appearance conceals it as a firearm.' Having concuded the Olin 12-gauge launcher is a firearm and it being clearly less than 30 inches in length, it follows the device is a 'pistol'.

As a pistol, the device is subject to the licensing restrictions applicable to handguns. Thus, one must obtain the appropriate license before one may purchase, carry or transport such devices. 1927 PA 372, Sec. 2, et seq; MCLA 28.422 et seq; MSA 28.92 et seq. It is also subject to the inspection provision of 1927 PA 372, supra, Sec. 9.

In addition, of course, the owner of such a device would be subject to the restrictions and penal sanctions imposed by 1931 PA 328, Sec. 222 et seq; MCLA 750.222 et seq; MSA 28.419, et seq.

This may represent overregulation of flare guns but any changes to the controlling statutes must be ordered by the Legislature.

It is my opinion, therefore, that this device is a 'firearm' and as a 'pistol', is subject to the purchase, inspection and carrying restrictions contained in State law.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General

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