Flashbangs are 'weapons of mass death and destruction,' North Carolina Supreme Court rules

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A Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Special Reactions Team (SRT) member throws a flashbang grenade during training at MCAS Miramar, Calif., May 15, 2019.

A Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Special Reactions Team (SRT) member throws a flashbang grenade during training at MCAS Miramar, Calif., May 15, 2019.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina recently ruled that flashbangs — which are often used by law enforcement agencies and the military to clear rooms — are not, in fact, non-lethal stun grenades but actually weapons of "mass death and destruction."

The decision stems from a case involving Adam Carey, an active-duty Marine who was stopped for speeding near Jacksonville, North Carolina in 2016. Carey claimed that he was a police officer and said he was trying to stop another car that was driving too fast. He was later convicted of impersonating a law enforcement officer. 

When police searched Carey's car, they found guns, ammo, body armor, suppressors, handcuffs, knives, and three flashbangs. Because of the flashbangs, Carey was also convicted "for possession of a weapon of mass death and destruction," which he successfully appealed in 2019.

Carey's argument basically amounted to: Yes, a flashbang is technically a grenade, but it is nowhere near as destructive as, say, a fragmentation grenade.

"It is overly simplistic and erroneous to classify a flashbang with 'a bright flash and a very loud bang' or a smoke grenade emitting fog as a 'Grenade' as a weapon of mass death and destruction," reads the appeal. "This inclusion would equate to classifying a cherry bomb as a 'Bomb' or a bottle rocket as a 'Rocket' capable of causing mass deaths. No admitted evidence shows these flashbang devices are capable of being used as a weapon to cause mass deaths or widespread destruction."

However, according to a Feb. 28 court filing, the state's Supreme Court reversed the findings of the appeals court and ruled that "a 'weapon of mass death and destruction’ includes any explosive or incendiary grenade.”

Put simply: Because a flashbang is a grenade, then under North Carolina law, it is a weapon of mass death and destruction.

"After carefully considering the record, transcripts, briefs, and arguments of the parties, we conclude that such a grenade is a weapon of mass death and destruction and that the Court of Appeals erred by making a contrary determination," reads the Supreme Court opinion.