Reader Erik writes:
I’m one of the unlucky bastards who calls New Jersey home. Now, NJ gun law rants typically focus either on the state’s infamous hollow point ban or its may-issue — no-issue in practice — position on concealed carry permits. But I don’t know how many people know about NJ’s definition of a handgun or its mandatory sentencing statutes . . .
Recently, a close friend of mine was sentenced to a year in jail for simple possession of a spring airsoft gun. For those of you who do not know, an airsoft gun shoots 6mm pellets at around 300 feet per second and can only harm someone if hit in the eye. I would like to point out that my friend was not brandishing it in an illegal manner or using it in the commission of an illegal activity; he simply had it on his person.
Why, might you ask, was he sentenced to a year in jail? In the state of New Jersey, an airsoft gun is considered the same thing as a real firearm. NJSA 2C:39-5B states:
Any person who knowingly has in his possession any handgun, including any antique handgun, without first having obtained a permit to carry the same as provided in N.J.S.A. 2C:58-4, is guilty of a crime of the third degree if the handgun 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. Otherwise it is a crime of the second degree.
Additionally, gun offenses are almost always subject to the Graves Act which provides mandatory sentencing without the possibility of parole. I just wanted to share my story with the rest of the gun community. It’s a shame that my friend has to be locked up for a year for doing nothing wrong.