A New Jersey law, the Graves Act, classifies BB guns on an equal ground with other firearms. Gun charges can result from the possession of unregistered BB guns, and children are not exempt from the requirement. While some states, such as Virginia, treat the perceived toys as firearms if they are used in connection with criminal conduct, New Jersey has the strictest laws in the nation regarding BB guns.
Violation of the Graves Act can result in a minimum prison term of three years along with extensive fines. Children who are charged with violations can face prison time as well. Although a waiver can be requested, there’s no guarantee that it will be granted, leaving an individual of any age with a potential felony on his or her criminal record. In a recent incident, a Glassboro resident was charged for shooting an airsoft gun in his own yard. Using a rubber duck for target practice, the man’s actions prompted several 911 calls from his neighbors.
The county in which a hearing is held may allow a downgrade of charges in some cases; some courts are more strict than others. A representative of Daisy, a manufacturer of BB guns, stated that the company disagrees with the New Jersey classification. However, the company expressed its respect for and intent to uphold the state’s law.
An individual facing such a charge may need to request a waiver in order to create a defense. Issues that could be important in downgrading or dismissing the charges may include the manner of use of the BB gun or airsoft pistol. If the charged individual is new to the state, courts may consider that the individual was unaware of the law regarding the registration of what he or she may consider a toy.