Woke Up This Morning, Got Yourself a BB Gun

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Ryan Narcisco, a 20-year old mall clerk, might go to jail for keeping a BB gun in his car.

The gun, a Gamo P-23, was sitting under the rear window of the 2004 coupe. Looking like a larger-caliber handgun, the firearm drew a quick response from the bicycle-patrol officer who stopped Narciso for doing 40 mph in a 25-mph zone. With gun drawn, the officer arrested him.

Narciso's father, an architect, bought the pellet gun at a garage sale a few years ago to fend off squirrels that made their way into the attic of the families home on Mount Pleasant Avenue in Edison, the father and Narciso's lawyer, Amilcar Perez of Perth Amboy, said.

Under a new state law, Narciso's possession of the weapon qualifies as a Graves Act offense. Narciso could face what prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys call a "hard three," meaning three years with no prospect of parole.

How did the law get so strict? By accident.

With little or no fanfare, lawmakers stiffened the Graves Act in the last session. They folded the amendment into anti-gang legislation that Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed into law in January.

Now, the simple unlawful possession of any firearm can bring mandatory penalties for anyone who pleads guilty to or is convicted of that crime alone.

Narcisco might come out ahead in this—he's drawn attention to a boneheaded law and might not have to do the prison time. But the article, by Ken Serrano, has more examples of the law being misapplied.

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77 responses to “Woke Up This Morning, Got Yourself a BB Gun

  1. WTF, a pellet gun is a “firearm” in Jersey?

  2. Seriously, you have to be at a-whole-‘nother level of retarded to prosecute this looking to put this guy away for 3 years for what amounts to speeding with a bb gun.

  3. Where is that famous prosecutorial discretion I hear so much about?

  4. Me: What state is this?
    Myself: Oh, of course,…it’s New Jersey.
    I: Nevermind.

  5. The definition of firearm in NJ includes the following:

    It shall also include, without limitation, any firearm which is in the nature of an air gun, spring gun or pistol or other weapon of a similar nature in which the propelling force is a spring, elastic band, carbon dioxide, compressed or other gas, or vapor, air or compressed air, or is ignited by compressed air, and ejecting a bullet or missile smaller than three-eighths of an inch in diameter, with
    sufficient force to injure a person.

  6. I gotta go with Other Matt here. BB guns aren’t “firearms”. Their cartridges don’t have a charge. If a BB gun is a “firearm” so is a slingshot.

  7. Where is that famous prosecutorial discretion I hear so much about?

    Proscutors seem to be keeping their “prosecutorial discretion” powder dry to use it in cases where the perp is politcally connected or a very well off person/celebrity

  8. I think what appalls me about this is that a pellet gun is considered a firearm. Christ, when I was a kid I used to shoot a pellet gun in my backyard in Chicago. Nobody cared.

  9. Well, OK, Dean has found the answer.

    New Jersey’s definition of a “firearm” is simply absurd, so we should not be surprised that we are see an absurd outcome. GIGA.

    If I claimed that the definition of “firearm” It included, without limitation, all small mammals with four legs, whiskers, and a tail, they’d lock me away. But coming up with similarly absurd definitions gets you a state legislator’s paycheck instead if you do it in Jersey.

  10. Where is that famous prosecutorial discretion I hear so much about?

    Kept in careful reserve so it can be used when cops beat people up, raid the wrong house and shoot unarmed folks, falsify court documents, etc.

  11. Guys in my high school used to shoot pellet guns all the time. It was no big deal.

  12. If a BB gun is a “firearm” so is a slingshot.

    It would appear so:

    It shall also include, without limitation, any firearm which is in the nature of an air gun, spring gun or pistol or other weapon of a similar nature in which the propelling force is a spring, elastic band, carbon dioxide, …

  13. If a BB gun is a firearm, so is a fucking spitball. Shouldn’t a firearm involve some actual fire?

  14. Memo from NJ Attorney General to all NJ Law Enforcement agencies. Be on the lookout for several hundred criminals possessing unlicensed firearms in your jurisdiction. They can be found routinely on construction sites, often doing roofing or framing work. Each should be considered armed and dangerous.

  15. How did the law get so strict? By accident.

    With little or no fanfare, lawmakers stiffened the Graves Act in the last session. They folded the amendment into anti-gang legislation that Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed into law in January.

    Now, the simple unlawful possession of any firearm can bring mandatory penalties for anyone who pleads guilty to or is convicted of that crime alone.

    Wiegel repeats the claim of the story’s author that the law was changed by mistake. How does that fact that the law was passed “with little or no fanfare” as part of broader anti-gang legislation prove that the law was changed “by accident”?

    Narcisco might come out ahead in this-he’s drawn attention to a boneheaded law and might not have to do the prison time. But the article, by Ken Serrano, has more examples of the law being misapplied.

    Again, it’s a stupid law, but as written, it appears it does include bb guns. So how does arresting someone who has a bb gun qualify as “the law being misapplied”?

  16. Actually even in rootin’ tootin’ Houston firing a BB gun in the city limits is “unlawful discharge of a firearm”. Probably the same in your fine locale.

    This is why I am building a 10 MW railgun.

  17. Zeb beat me to it. Where is the ‘fire’ in this firearm? You know, the spark that ignites the propellant??

    the law was passed “with little or no fanfare” as part of broader anti-gang legislation

    Except for their much narrower barrels, some BB guns look exactly like real guns. I’m guessing some junior league criminals use them to intimidate their victims. My guess is the fine law makers in NJ where looking for a way to get tough on these thugs.

  18. Don’t bb guns have those orange tips to distinguish them from real guns?

  19. I have a BB gun in my car right now. I keep it there to use on the kid next door who won’t quit lighting damn bottle rockets and throwing them in my yard.

  20. Why do we love the law more than we do each other? I smell proto fascism.

  21. Several years ago, I had a summer internship in New Jersey. I was smart enough to realize I couldn’t take any of my real firearms with me. But upon checking into it further, I realized that according to the great state of New Jersey my single shot, manually-operated competition-grade .17 air pistol was considered a firearm, and therefore restricted on roughly the same level of an AR15.

  22. At state and federal level there are already so many laws on the book there should rarely be any need for new ones. But of course politicians feel the need to constantly pass new laws. A misguided work ethic I think. Instead they should all be forced to take about 8 months paid vacation time every year.

  23. My erstwhile home state, Dirty Jersey, is only slightly less free than a Siberian Gulag.

    Do you think the real-life Tony Sopranos are bothered by the draconian details of Garden State firearms law?

  24. Don’t bb guns have those orange tips to distinguish them from real guns?

    BB guns aren’t required to have them, however I believe it is federal law that all toy guns must either be brightly colored, or have an orange tip.

    This includes all of the ultra-realistic looking airsoft guns, which shoot plastic pellets.

  25. Now, the simple unlawful possession of any firearm

    Firearm… so… what’s the connection between the law about firearms and the pellet gun they found in the back of his car?

  26. So, presumably, federal law recognizes that BB guns aren’t toys, but anyone with more than two synapses to rub together should also be able to realize that they aren’t firearms, either.

  27. …carbon dioxide, compressed or other gas, or vapor, air or compressed air,…

    Would seem to include BB guns and spitballs.

    …with sufficient force to injure a person.

    Would seem to disqualify both, unless one were using Fire Marshall Bill logic.

  28. Where is that famous prosecutorial discretion I hear so much about?

    It is only valid for friends and family. Geez, c’mon that was an obvious one.

    …spring gun or pistol or other weapon of a similar nature in which the propelling force is a spring…

    Soooo…the little toy gun I buy my son that uses a spring and shoots tiny foam/plastic projectiles is a firearm and he could go to jail like Ryan Narciso (if we lived in New Jersey)? After all he could shoot someone in the eye with it.

    And why include bb guns…are gangs using bb guns now?

    Jesus but people in New Jersey must be stupid. You either like this stuff, tolerate it, and/or vote for the people who do this kind of stuff.

  29. In NJ possession of an expended cartridge case is a felony without a firearms license. A single hollow-point pistol round rolling around on the floor of your car can net you a hefty fine and a year in the clink.

  30. with sufficient force to injure a person.

    Would seem to disqualify both,

    You’ll shoot your eye out!

  31. db, carrying around brass is a felony? LOL.

    I’m sure we can find some dumb Jersey laws and start making citizen arrests. “Sorry state legislator, I realize it’s 3am, but I’m outside your window and I can hear you snoring.”

  32. Wow, so now we need to debate if bb guns, slingshots, and projectile shooting toys have 2nd amendment rights?

    “””Would seem to disqualify both, unless one were using Fire Marshall Bill logic.””””

    And they do.

  33. Tym stole my original comment.

    I have a BB gun in my car right now. I keep it there to use on the kid next door who won’t quit lighting damn bottle rockets and throwing them in my yard.

    I don’t know if I woulda told that.

    db, carrying around brass is a felony? LOL.

    DC too. Even a “replica”, meaning a dummy round or anything that might look like it, is the same way. This is the result of “Reasonable Regulation” I guess.

  34. Dave W, I have to agree that it wasn’t by accident. They intentionally inserted it in legislation they knew would pass. No accident there.

  35. TrickyVic,
    Umm could you please refer to Dave Weigel by something other than Dave W? Dave W is a musician of some ill repute whereas Dave Weigel is an author of some ill repute. Quite the difference if I must say so myself.

  36. “You ever been shot? Or stabbed?”

    “What?”

    “I mean, you’re a surgeon, right? They make psychiatrists get psychoanalyzed. But they don’t make a surgeon get cut on. Does that seem right to you?”

    I think it would do wonders to require that every legislator who seeks to attach prison sentences to any criminal legislation should spend a week in a maximum security prison. Y’know, just to get a sense of what they are inflicting on others. I’ll even pass up legislators if I could get a prosecutor or two to do a week of “educational time”.

  37. Firearm or not, the law this guy’s being persecuted under is unconstitutional.

    -jcr

  38. DC too. Even a “replica”, meaning a dummy round or anything that might look like it, is the same way.

    In-fucking-sane.

    So, basically, if a certain kind of object (like a shell casing) that looks like something some politician saw in some movie or tv show, which makes them think of violent, scary type things or mean people or anything else that makes them uncomfortable, is found near somebody, they uh, they have to go to jail for the protection of society.

    I am not a hateful person usually, but I hate these people.

  39. “Would seem to disqualify both, unless one were using Fire Marshall Bill logic.”

    And they do.

    And I used to think Fire Marshall Bill was so funny.
    Because he was crazy, you see.

  40. Windypundit said: I think what appalls me about this is that a pellet gun is considered a firearm. Christ, when I was a kid I used to shoot a pellet gun in my backyard in Chicago. Nobody cared.

    Heck, when I was a kid, no one thought anything of a kid walking down the highway with a .22 rifle.

  41. RCSP: You’ll shoot your eye out!

    Thanks for correcting Steve on that one. It was bugging me like mites on my sack. On second thought, maybe I need some Quell.

    “lawmakers stiffened the Graves Act”- heh heh, lawmakers said stiffened. Indeed.

  42. The definition of firearm in NJ includes the following:

    So, does this mean that in New Jersey if you tried to register your BB gun or get a concealed carry permit for it, they wouldn’t laugh you out of the clerk’s office?

  43. MLSC: So, does this mean that in New Jersey if you tried to register your BB gun or get a concealed carry permit for it, they wouldn’t laugh you out of the clerk’s office?

    No, it means they’d charge you and confiscate the weapon. I think you have to propose owning a squirrel killer to get laughed out of their offices.

  44. close italics

  45. A few years ago, the local prosecutor here was charging people for carrying toy airsoft guns:

    http://www.thehighroad.org/archive/index.php/t-83673.html

    Finally, the state attorney general sent the over-excited prosecutor a letter telling him to knock it off.

  46. I went to a sporting goods store in Plymouth township, PA to buy an air rifle for Father’s Day (my dad fights a war of attrition with squirrels). The clerk–standing in front of a rack of shotguns and rifles–informed me that Plymouth Township outlawed BB guns because they’re too dangerous.

  47. It’s funny until somebody gets their eye shot out. Then it’s still funny, just not around that person.

    — old net saying

  48. “BB guns aren’t required to have them, however I believe it is federal law that all toy guns must either be brightly colored, or have an orange tip.

    This includes all of the ultra-realistic looking airsoft guns, which shoot plastic pellets.”

    That Federal law is only for transporting and shipment across state lines and national borders the airsoft guns, not actual posession.

  49. If a guy shot a stranger with an unlicensed BB gun, spring action, which only causes a sting, and the other guy responded by picking up a stone and whipping it at the other guy, causing a cracked skull or some broken bones, who spends more time in jail in Jersey?

  50. Worked at a school district once – very rural area. A kid had checked his traps before driving to school. Didn’t think about the .22 he had in his truck, locked up. Someone saw it – the kid, a senior, got expelled. I blame it on the lawyers, and in this case, a cowardly school board, afraid to make an exception.

    Hearing about this, I remembered that I, too, had a .22 in my truck!

  51. Mr. Weigel:

    I’m afraid that you’re focusing on the wrong issue. The Graves act is a secondary issue, the icing on the cake.

    The substance of the cake is that New Jersey has intentionally defined bb and air guns as full house firearms in their statutes since (IIRC) 1966.

    As a result, they are heavily restricted. You cannot buy one in state without a FID, (which requires a multi-month background check, including fingerprints), and if a bb handgun, a Pistol Purchase permit, which also requires a background check. You may not carry one around in your public, or even in your car (unless unloaded and securely boxed, separated from ammo, and only while going directly to or from approved places like ranges and gunsmiths) without a carry permit, of which only about 600 exist in a state of 8 million people.

    The problem is 40 years of institutional hostility to firearms and their owners, not the recent continuation and celebration of that with the Graves act.

    Oh, and by the way, both Mr. Graves father, and the poor sap who sold the bb gun at the garage sale participated in what NJ statutorily defines unlawful gun transaction: you may not sell any handgun unless you are an FFL, and have done all the paperwork.

  52. >>If a BB gun is a “firearm” so is a slingshot.

    Oh, which reminds me.

    Slingshots are defined as prohibited offensive weapons in NJ,possession of which is a felony.

    This wasn’t intentional, however. Well…to the extent that the result of such a deliberate process can be deemed unintentional, anyway.

    The story behind the criminalization of slingshots is that the rep who drafted the bill wanted to prohibit slUngshots, (chains or cords with weights on the end), but someone in the office of legislative services thought it was a typo and “corrected” it to slIngshot. This was the version of the bill that was enacted, and viola! Dennis the Menace: Felon in NJ.

  53. I think they need to expand the definition of “firearms” to include people with flames tattooed on their arms, just to take their absurdity to its logical end. Heck, put a BB in a freakin’ slingshot and it qualifies as a “firearm” under their definition!

  54. I better put away my straw and spitballs when in Joisey!

  55. *crosses NJ off the list of states he’d ever consider living in*

  56. I’ll also leave my rubber bands.
    Jeez, Hasn’t anyone heard of the 2nd amendment?

  57. Folks, forget the BB gun for a moment willya!

    I want to know how a bicycle cop stops a car going 40mph in a 25 zone. Oh and I would really like to know how they train a bicycle cop to do a pit maneuver with a Schwinn.

    Back to the BB gun. If I were this guy I would call the NRA. They are looking for edge cases to bolster Heller. This would seem a classic one to apply.

  58. This is insane. You realise you now have stricter controls over air weapons in New Jersey than in the UK? That’s not a benchmark I’d aspire to.

    25-ish years ago, nobody thought anything of two unsupervised teenaged boys crawling around the Surrey countryside at 2am with a 100,000 candlepower lamp and a suppressed BSA .22LR. You could whack a bunny at 100 yards in the dark with that thing, and we got a bounty from the farmer. Then my friend’s mother would cook them. They’d probably send a helicopter gunship up these days.

  59. I think the Bedazzler might be a firearm under the Jersey statute:
    http://mybedazzler.com/

  60. Q:Why do we pass laws like this?

    A:It’s what the women want; them and the feminized men. They’re much more concerned with safety & security than with freedom and anything that goes along with it. After all, “Someone might get hurt.”, and ANYTHING is better than that. So now we’ve got to live under “grade school playtime” rules.

    We’ve been jumping through hoops to cater to the women and what they want ever since they got the vote and where has it gotten us? They’re still not happy. If Hillary were to run, I could almost justify voting for her. Let a woman try to sort out this feminized mess.

  61. ARTICLE I RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES
    1. All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain natural and unalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.
    21. This enumeration of rights and privileges shall not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the people.

  62. Curiously, the only time I’ve ever been in NJ was to specifically learn and use assorted automatic and crew served weapons. No BB guns though so I guess it was ok.

  63. the only time I’ve ever been in NJ was to specifically learn and use assorted automatic and crew served weapons. No BB guns though so I guess it was ok.

    Somewhere on the intertubez, I saw full auto BB guns (including a gatling gun, if memory serves) for sale. My work filter won’t let me dig them up now, but they looked hella fun.

  64. Bob:

    It has NOTHING to do with “the women”, as you put it. What it has to do with is the fascist impulse certain lawmakers have. I’m a woman and believe me, I think Heller was a damn good decision by 5 members of the Court. The fact that all 9 found an individual right to keep and bear arms is something worth celebrating.

    The Constitution exists to exert control over the Government and ensure the rights of the People, as the Founders knew that there is a predisposition for those who seek power to desire control.

    The fact that NJ has enacted such asinine laws means that the people therein have made poor choices in their Representatives to the Legislature. Of course, given the tilt of the media, they are probably not as well informed as they should be.

  65. Back in my college days, we used to have a device called a “funnelator”. Basically it was two large rubber bands with a funnel in the middle, used for propelling water baloons a great distance.
    Guess on those job interviews I will have to admit to comitting a felony in the future.

  66. Fluffy:
    It shall also include, WITHOUT limitation, any firearm which is in the nature of an air gun, spring gun or pistol or other weapon of a similar nature in which the propelling force is a spring, ELATIC BAND, carbon dioxide, compressed or other gas, or vapor, air or compressed air, or is ignited by compressed air, and ejecting a bullet or missile smaller than three-eighths of an inch in diameter, with
    sufficient force to INJURE a person.

    If I shoot you in the eye with a rubber band,
    and we know that smarts, you’ll be so grateful the law includes rubber band powered guns. Man, those NJ legislators knows how to write laws.

  67. Remind me to never even go near New Jersey. What a pathetic place.

  68. And the NJ lege is preparing to bar possession even of historic arms. Of course in light of Heller, you’ve got a right but NJ has the authority to regulate to the point your right is simply unattainable.

    With few bright spots the rest of the nation isn’t far behind. Next we’ll see states barring arms, oops, regulating arms in fear of losing ‘free fed dollars’, as has been done w/age of majority issues.

  69. Q:Why do we pass laws like this?

    A:It’s what the women want;

    Speak for yourself, says this female NRA member who learned to shoot as a young kid.

    It’s not the gender. It’s the political mindset. Get it straight.

  70. Kap has the solution. Railguns are powered by magnetic pulses, and aren’t covered. I betcha it wouldn’t be hard to make a little handgun that could outperform a BB gun; it could even include one of those new hand-crank chargers. Hmmm, anybody want to go halvsies in a little company making and marketing them? 😉

  71. This is just crazy!! When will the people of the Republic of Jersey wake up and stop these retarded politicians from making stuff up as they go along.

    This is the reason why I will never set foot in Jersey or spend any money there period!!!

  72. I will compare my defense of the 2nd amendment to anyone’s and agree that too many prosecutors (and police) sometimes massively misuse their discretion and this is one of those cases, however what kind of idiot drives around an anti-gun state with a real looking handgun in full view in his window?

    My stepson has become a big fan of the real looking plastic pellet guns. Upon first seeing one I was shocked how real it looked, which was a far cry from the look of BB guns of old that I remember.

    I am a former country boy who grew up with guns all around but now live in an ultra-liberal university community which neighbors a very high crime rate older city, no doubt a place not unlike a place in New Jersey with bicycle police.

    My first sternly delivered lecture to the stepson was that it was not a normal toy and to treat it like a real gun and to never ever walk down the street with it in view. I explained that doing so was an invitation to be arrested the way the subject in your story was – at gunpoint – and that explanations would follow. I also explained that a simple careless arm movement during such an arrest could result in him being shot.

    Apparently the young man, who is old enought to have known better on his own, received no such common sense instruction from his father.

  73. somebody do the united states a favor and get a giant sawsall and cut loose that giant cesspool with waves we call a state… it makes pa look bad..

  74. sorry there pro freedom, but it is Philly that makes PA look bad…

    this reminds me of Ayoob’s story of the lady that got fined like $5000 each for the 6 hollow points in her revolver in NJ… when she asked him what she should do, he said “be glad you werent carrying a 17shot glock”

  75. oh, and i forgot to mention, my sears .22;r from the 1960’s is considered an assault weapon in NJ because the tube magazine holds more than 15 rounds

  76. I got arrested for shooting a BB GUN on my property in 2005 after I came home from Kansas . I bought it for 25 Dollars and when I came to NJ i was shooting it at a target placed on a box and was arrested and am about to finish a FULL 5 yr probation. Not to mention I have a felony charge now and can never own a firearm or get a decent job . This is a true story. If there is any one who can help me get the charge removed or a LAWYER who can help me some how I would be thankful . Its bullshit and a bullshit law. they raided my house, Violated me in every aspect i felt like a criminal and all I did was play with a “TOY” . I did not have to show ID when I bought it but in NJ i got arrested for shooting it on my property.. BUllshit .. and yes its real guys

  77. Many of these types of laws are being “discovered” as they are applied in ways the original lawmakers never intended. While trying to fill loopholes in regular firearms laws, air rifles (BB guns) have inadvertently been included. Laws need to be changed to make sure the original intent of the law is enforced and there are not unintended consequences for the innocent.
    http://www.airarmsairrifles.com

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