Woke Up This Morning, Got Yourself a BB Gun


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.