Crime to Negligently Let Someone Stay in Your Home, Where You Have a Gun That the Visitor Knows About

That seems to be the implication of United States v. Stegmeier (D.S.D. Dec. 2, 2011) (now on appeal). Stegmeier let a man named Kelley stay in his RV; Kelley was a fugitive from justice, and there was some evidence Stegmeier knew it. Stegmeier also told Kelley where Stegmeier kept his gun. When Kelley was caught, Stegmeier was prosecuted for various charges, including “dispos[ing]” a gun to “any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe” the person is a felon, under indictment for a felony, or a fugitive from justice. The jury convicted, and the judge concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction:

Stegmeier allowed Kelley to live in his RV …. Stegmeier testified that when he helped move Kelley into the RV he told Kelley, “My Pistol is in the closet.” At the time law enforcement was searching the RV on December 22, 2010, the pistol was not in the closet as Stegmeier had advised them it would be. Agent Legg testified that Stagmeier told him on December 22, 2010, that Kelley must have moved the gun and that they should check under the pillow because that is where Kelley usually kept the gun. The .357 handgun was eventually located in a compartment within arm’s reach of the bed in the RV.

The evidence at trial supports a jury finding that Stegmeier disposed of the gun to Kelley. Stegmeier allowed Kelley the use of his RV and advised him of the location of the gun within the RV. Kelley had the power of disposal of the .357 handgun. There is further evidence that Stegmeier was aware that Kelley would have moved and exercised control over that handgun. There was sufficient evidence to convict Stegmeier of the charges under 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)….

Note that the jury wasn’t required to find that Stegmeier knew Kelley was ineligible to possess a gun, only that he had “reasonable cause to believe” this. Likewise, it seemed to be sufficient that Stegmeier informed Kelley of where the gun is — something that might have happened if the gun were visible (e.g., hanging on the wall) or was just casually exposed to Kelley, for instance if Kelley saw Stegmeier handle the gun and return it to its proper place. And while Stegmeier seemed to know that Kelley actually handled the gun, that didn’t seem to be required under the court’s reasoning, and as best I can tell the jury never had to find such knowledge. Finally, while Kelley lived in the RV for months, the same logic would apply to shorter visits as well; § 922(d) has no requirement of long-term access.

So if you have house-guests that you have “reasonable cause to believe” have a felony conviction, or have once been in a mental hospital, or are nonresident aliens (even if legal aliens), and they see where your gun is, you might well be guilty of a federal felony on the theory of this case.