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The answer, as usual, is it depends. Pointing a gun at someone in the State of Minnesota, loaded or unloaded, can be a severe offense.

The legal ramifications can vary depending on the specifics of the situation. Even if no injuries occur, pointing a gun at someone can be construed as a threat, and the legislature made the act a crime that carries significant legal consequences.

The outcome of your criminal case can affect your freedom. If you are facing criminal charges and need a lawyer, contact Arechigo & Stokka. 

Understanding Minnesota’s Firearm Laws 

The law defines a gun is a dangerous weapon: any firearm or device designed as a weapon and capable or likely capable of producing death or great bodily injury. Intentionally pointing or recklessly handling a gun can have serious consequences.

Minnesota Statute § 609.66 discusses dangerous weapons and outlines several ways in which handling a firearm can become criminal. It is essential to note the difference between reckless and intentional handling. 

  • Reckless handling. If you handle or use a gun in a way that endangers another person’s safety, the law considers that to be reckless handling of a firearm. Recklessness can encompass brandishing a firearm in a threatening manner, even if you do not discharge the weapon.
  • Intentional handling. If you intentionally point a gun that is capable of injuring or killing at or toward another person, the State can charge you with a crime under the dangerous weapons statute. This applies regardless of whether or not the gun was loaded.

The crucial distinction lies in intent. Reckless handling suggests a lack of due caution, while intentional pointing implies deliberate intimidation. 

Is Pointing a Gun at Someone a Felony?

The severity of the charges depends on the specific circumstances surrounding your case. You may be charged with a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony.

Here’s the breakdown of possible severity levels if you pick up charges for pointing a gun at someone.


A misdemeanor gun charge typically applies when the act of pointing the gun, though reckless, doesn’t involve additional threatening behavior and doesn’t occur in a particularly sensitive location (like a school zone). A misdemeanor conviction carries a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. 

Gross Misdemeanor

The charges escalate to a gross misdemeanor if the accused has prior convictions, or if the act of pointing the firearm is coupled with additional threatening behavior or occurs in a designated sensitive location—such as schools, parks, and public housing.

Examples of threatening behavior could include brandishing a gun in a menacing manner or pointing it at someone during a robbery. A gross misdemeanor conviction carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. 


It is important to note that these are the general classifications. The specific circumstances—e.g., if you have a prior criminal history or the location of the incident was designated by law as sensitive—can influence the charges and potential penalties. 

When a gun is involved, the intensity of a situation can quickly escalate and result in a felony charge. For instance, if the act results in injury or occurs during the commission of another crime, the prosecutor could charge you with a felony. Generally, a felony is a crime for which a sentence of imprisonment of one year or more may be imposed.

Is Pointing an Unloaded Gun at Someone Assault?

Yes, as stated, Minnesota law doesn’t differentiate between loaded and unloaded firearms when it comes to the crime of pointing a gun at someone. The misconception that pointing an unloaded gun isn’t a crime is dangerous and legally inaccurate. 

However, if the act recklessly endangers the safety of another person, such actions can also constitute an assault. Assault is a separate criminal charge that comes with different penalties.

Pointing a gun at someone can be considered assault in the fifth degree under Minnesota Statute § 609.224. This crime is defined as acting with the intent to cause fear of immediate bodily harm or death, or intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm. 

2nd Degree Assault

You could face the serious charge of assault in the 2nd degree for pointing a gun at someone. The circumstances of an alleged altercation are critical, but it is important to understand that pointing a gun at someone, loaded or unloaded, can very quickly lead to serious criminal charges.

Minnesota Statute § 609.222 criminalizes 2nd Degree Assault as follows: “Whoever assaults another with a dangerous weapon may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than seven years or to payment of a fine of not more than $14,000, or both.”

The penalties increase if someone suffers substantial bodily harm with the use of a gun.

Terroristic Threats

If you accompany pointing a firearm with verbal threats of violence, the State might also regard this as a terroristic threat under Minnesota Statute § 609.713.

This statute applies when someone intentionally communicates threats that instill fear of imminent serious bodily harm in another person. Here, the act of pointing a gun itself is considered the communication of a threat if the person feels a real and present danger of being shot. 

Depending on the circumstances and your criminal history, the prosecutor can charge a terroristic threat as a felony or gross misdemeanor.

This is a more serious offense, often classified as a felony in the fifth degree, with potential penalties of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If you have been charged with making a terrorist threat, lawyer John Arechigo can help.

Why You Need to Hire an Attorney 

It’s crucial to consult with an attorney if you’re facing charges related to pointing a gun at someone. An experienced legal professional can analyze the unique details of your case and advise you on the best course of action.

Self-defense may apply to your situation. It’s vital that you have an attorney experienced in assessing self-defense cases.

If you’re accused of pointing a gun at someone in Minnesota, navigating gun laws can be complex. An experienced attorney can help you understand the specific details of your case as they relate to the law, explore potential defenses, and strive for the best possible outcome. They can also protect your rights throughout the process.

Don’t Face Legal Challenges Alone: We’re Here for You

At our law firm, we understand the immense stress and uncertainty of a criminal charge. It can impact not just you, but your entire family.

Unlike other firms, we share our cell phone numbers with clients. You won’t get lost in a maze of voicemails or unanswered emails.

We strive for prompt responses, ensuring you have the support you need throughout your case. We take the time to truly understand your situation and goals. This in-depth understanding allows us to craft a personalized legal strategy with the best chance of success.

Contact us today for a free consultation. Let’s discuss your situation and explore how we can help you navigate this difficult time.

Author Photo John T. Arechigo, Esq.

Attorney John Arechigo has a passion for criminal defense in St. Paul, MN. John received his J.D., from Hamline University School of Law and also carries a Bachelor of Arts from, The University of Minnesota. John was named Attorney of the Year for 2019 by Minnesota Lawyer. Additionally, John was also named as a 2019 Rising Star and was selected to Minnesota Super Lawyers in 2021. He devotes nearly 100% of his practice to defending individuals charged with a crime.

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