A Mississippi gas station found itself in the spotlight after photographs of a “shotgun booby trap” in the store surfaced on the internet.

The images below were taken by a visitor to the Clarke County gas station and shared on reddit, where it started a discussion on the legality of such traps.

After all, shotgun traps are commonly seen in television and film, such as one notorious scene the 2004 film Saw, but are they legal? According to one Mississippi lawyer, it may depend on whether the gun is loaded.

“Generally people don’t have a right to enter your business outside normal business hours and you can protect it with cameras, dogs, but anything that involves deadly force is definitely illegal,” attorney Alex Ignatiev told WDAM regarding an unmanned shotgun.

However, he added that an unloaded shotgun may be legal, if certainly not recommended.

Joe McCoy, the owner of the gas station, said he has been using the shotgun trap for years without incident. Although he did not indicate whether the firearm was loaded, McCoy did confirm that the trap works through a series of strings attached to both the front doors and a pulley on the shotgun’s trigger. McCoy, who has owned the service station for more than 40 years, decided to create the setup after a spree of break-ins that neither highly visible cameras or alarms could deter.

“I have been broken into seven times, anyway from driving through the shop door to throwing cement blocks through the windows,” he said.

McCoy added that the local Clarke County Sheriff’s Department is effective, but is situated too far from the gas station and he needed to take matters into his own hands. Every night he would activate the trap and then disarm it when he came back in the morning to open up. Since the booby trap went up, McCoy said he had no robberies. It is unknown if the shotgun has ever been discharged while “guarding” the store.

Some had defended McCoy’s ability to protect his store but many others harshly criticized the man for what they say is a public hazard. In reddit’s comment section, scores of commentors pointed out the illegal nature of a shotgun trap and the various flaws in McCoy’s plan. Many were especially worried that if the shotgun was loaded, it could result in the injury or death of non-criminals, such as firefighters. Others pointed out that a thief could just enter through a window, in which case the shotgun was merely just another item to be stolen.

“I assume the owner goes in the back door to disarm it. Why wouldn’t the robber just do the same thing?” asked one commentor.

McCoy, however, said the deterrent works and has not indicated that he will stop using it anytime soon.

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  • jimpeel

    Mantraps are illegal throughout the 50 states. One guy set a bear trap in the bathtub under the bathroom window. The trap was chained to the water pipe. A burglar broke in, stepped in the trap, fell over, and grabbed an electrical device which promptly electrocuted him. The homeowner was charged, and convicted, with second degree murder.