According to NBC10, New Jersey police have arrested—yes arrested—a seven-year-old for wielding a NERF-style toy dart gun in elementary school. Hammonton, NJ police began an investigation into “suspicious activity” after being alerted by school officials. Police then arrested the urchin and charged him/her with possessing an imitation firearm in or on an education institution; a misdemeanor charge. How’s that, you ask? Let’s look at the relevant Garden State statutes, starting with 2C:39-1 . . .
f.”Firearm” means any handgun, rifle, shotgun, machine gun, automatic or semi-automatic rifle, or any gun, device or instrument in the nature of a weapon from which may be fired or ejected any solid projectable ball, slug, pellet, missile or bullet, or any gas, vapor or other noxious thing, by means of a cartridge or shell or by the action of an explosive or the igniting of flammable or explosive substances. 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.
By the above definition, a fart could be considered a firearm if its originator used it to cause someone to avert their attention, slip and harm themselves. More realistically, the above language includes air guns, paintball guns, airsoft guns, and toy dart guns. It appears the great state of NJ has a thing against firearms, whether they’re firearms or not.
Be that as it may, why did the school call the police and have one of their own students victimized by overzealous law enforcement? What fear gripped these grown-ups so tightly that they felt the need for armed soldiers of the local municipality? The tipping point: the child “fired” the toy gun.
I’m guessing the child was charged under NJS 2C:39-1, which considers an imitation firearm an “object or device reasonably capable of being mistaken for a firearm.” The state must also prove intent. In short, the seven-year-old had to intend to have others mistake the NERF-style gat for a real firearm. That is going to be a tough one to sell to any jury, even in New Jersey.
So what do we have here? A school that calls the police to solve minor disciplinary problems with students. Police that arrest seven-year-old children and charge them for bringing a toy to school. A DA who reasoned that it would be proper to prosecute a child for bringing a toy to school.
NBC10 reports that “no one was hurt” by this incident. Only the rule of law, common sense and simple human compassion.