New Jersey has notoriously tough gun laws. Unfortunately, many people do not understand the full extent of these laws. One common situation that unfortunately can result in criminal consequences is a teen or other individual who may purchase a BB or pellet gun at a flea market. Unfortunately, under New Jersey law, a firearm is not viewed as a child’s toy but rather as a firearm. Thus, let us explore whether an individual can theoretically face criminal charges and a potential prison sentence for possession of a BB gun without having proper permits.
What is Considered a Gun or “Firearm” Under NJ Law?
Under New Jersey Law, the definition of a “firearm” is set forth in NJSA 2C:39-1(f). In New Jersey, a firearm includes “any handgun, rifle, shotgun, machine gun, automatic or semiautomatic rifle, or any gun, device or instrument in the nature of a weapon from which may be fired or ejected any solid projectable…” Furthermore, the definition of a firearm also includes “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.” Thus, under this part of NJSA 2C:39-1(f) a number of other firearms are defined including:
- Air guns
- Any firearm similar to an air gun
- Spring guns
- Any firearm that uses a spring to launch pellets or projectiles smaller than three-eighths of an inch in diameter.
- Any firearm that uses an elastic band or other similar mechanism to launch pellets or projectiles smaller than three-eighths of an inch in diameter that can cause injury.
- Any firearm that uses a compressed CO2 or air cartridge or other similar mechanism to launch pellets or projectiles smaller than three-eighths of an inch in diameter that can injure a person.
Under this section, the types of guns are also described above are defined under additional subsections. Thus all items described above are considered a “firearm” under New Jersey law.
Regardless of whether a BB gun utilizes a pneumatic design with a reservoir or compressed gas or a spring air design, it is covered under the definitions listed above. Thus, even though many consider a BB gun to be a toy for teens and adolescents, it can undoubtedly cause serious bodily injury. Under New Jersey law a BB gun or pellet is undoubtedly a firearm. Furthermore, a handgun is defined under NJSA 2C:39-1(k) as a pistol, revolver or any other weapon that can be fired with the use of only a single hand. Since a BB gun is fired with one hand and is considered a firearm under NJ law, and per NJSA 2C:39-1(r) all firearms are weapons, it is also considered a handgun under NJSA 2C:39-1(k).
Do I need a Permit to Have a BB Gun?
Since a BB gun or pellet gun is considered a handgun under New Jersey law, a permit to carry a firearm of this type is necessary. 2C:58-4 – Permits to Carry Handguns sets forth licensing procedures for a handgun. Under the statute, a license to carry a handgun is subject to investigation and approval. However, those authorized to carry a handgun may do so “in all parts of this State, except as prohibited by section 2C:39-5e.” A license to carry a handgun expires, generally, two years after it is issued or when it is revoked.
How Long of a Prison Sentence Can I Face for An Unlicensed BB Gun?
While a BB gun is considered a handgun under NJ law, it was specifically exempted from the 2008 expansion of the Graves Act. The Graves Act is a New Jersey gun law that imposes enhanced sentences and mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes including mere possession of a firearm. While the Graves Act did provide for expanded penalties for possession of firearms defined under 2C:39-5(a), (b), or (c) – Machine guns, handguns, and rifles and shotguns – air guns and spring guns are specifically exempted from these enhanced penalties that would otherwise enhance this act to a second-degree indictable offense carrying a five to ten year sentence.
However, possession of a handgun, including a BB gun or pellet gun, without a license is still a serious crime. Any individual who has failed to secure a valid permit to carry such a firearm, as provided under 2C:58-4, can be charged with a third degree crime under 2C:39-5(b). Furthermore, 2C:39-5(e) states that any person knowingly possessing “any firearm” on the grounds of any “school, college, university or other educational institution” without proper authorization by the school can be charged with a third-degree crime.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney When Facing Serious Weapons Charges
Individuals who have been charged with the unlawful possession of a BB gun, pellet gun, handgun, or other firearm under NJ law face serious penalties including a potential prison sentence. However, under certain circumstances, the matter may be appropriate for diversion into New Jersey’s Pretrial Intervention Program. If PTI is successfully completed, the individual can avoid having a criminal conviction and a criminal record. To discuss how to handle a gun charge contact the experienced Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers of the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 or contact us online.