Skip to comments.Under New Jersey's new law, possession of BB gun merits three-year sentence
Posted on 07/15/2008 7:20:24 PM PDT by neverdem
Caught speeding in Highland Park in April in his father's Acura RSX, Ryan Narciso found out the hard way about a recent change in a New Jersey gun law that could send him to prison for three years.
The 20-year-old sales clerk at a shop at Menlo Park Mall and former Middlesex County College student had a pellet handgun in the car, according to an indictment filed last week in Superior Court, New Brunswick.
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.
But a state official Wednesday acknowledged that the draconian measure made its way into law by mistake.
Stiffening the law
The Graves Act, adopted in 1981 and named after Frank X. Graves Jr., the late state senator and law-and-order mayor of Paterson known for patroling the city, outlined mandatory-minimum prison sentences for anyone guilty of using a gun in the commission of a crime in New Jersey. A burglar caught with a handgun, for instance, faced a solid three years behind bars for the gun crime alone.
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.
The law does not trigger hard time in each case.
As the law stands, Narciso could avoid prison if he enters a pretrial-intervention program, allowing him to eventually erase his criminal record, or benefits from a narrow alternative for probation under the Graves Act. But the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office could block the first of those possibilities and must initiate the second.
A 50-year-old businessman from Somerset County faces longer odds for gaining such mercy. Police charged the man in a drunken-driving accident this year. While investigating, officers found an unsecured handgun the man had just lawfully purchased.
"It was unboxed in his car," said his attorney, Blair Zwillman of Woodbridge.
Because of the change to the Graves Act, the businessman is now looking at a 5-year minimum prison term, Zwillman said. He declined to provide his client's name.
Steven Altman, a New Brunswick criminal-defense attorney, said the stiffer gun law casts a wide net.
"It is going to impact a great many people who have nothing to do with gangs," he said.
But the businessman and Narciso may not face any hard time.
Neither Narciso, nor his father knew they broke the law by having the gun without a firearms registration card, both men said.
"If we knew it was illegal, my dad never would have gotten it," Narciso said.
And it proved ineffective in controlling the problem in the attic, they said.
"That gun couldn't even kill a squirrel," the father, Emiliano Narciso, said.
Regardless of the change to the Graves Act, possession of the pellet gun is still a crime that can theoretically bring three to five years in prison, but rarely means incarceration for first-time offenders. Past offenders would likely see several months of jail at most.
Narciso has never had a brush with the law.
His father said his son was recently playing with the gun and threw it in the back of the car. Ryan Narciso said he forgot it was there.
Despite the revelations about the confused legislation, Ryan Narciso, who hopes to return to college to study fashion or product design, did not seem relieved Thursday outside his home where he lives with his siblings and parents.
"Every time I think about it, I think of what a huge mistake it was," Narciso said. "I'm sorry for all the trouble I caused."
Ken Serrano: (732) 565-7212; firstname.lastname@example.org
I really despise the idiots who govern my state. I despise even more the majority of New Jersey voters who keep voting for Dems like its their religion, or for RINOs for that matter.
“Every time I think about it, I think of what a huge mistake it was,” Narciso said. “I’m sorry for all the trouble I caused.”
Bluebellies ain’t what they use to be.
These people are insane.
NJ is a toxic toilet. (would have used ‘commode’ but am an alliteration aficionado)
The only reason to ever go there is cheap gas. Duck across the border and fill up, then adios Garden State.
Honestly, we would be better off with a wall around New Jersey than along the Mexican border.
Let me guess what the X stands for..."xhole"
Frank Graves was quite a character. A law and order nut who nevertheless could not stop Paterson from descending into chaos from the 1960s on. Allowed organized crime and drug dealing to go on while leading neighborhood “patrols”, the media always in tow. Something of a racist until changing demographics changed him into Mr. Affirmative Action. He was the last of the old school Paterson machine Dems, which are only distinguished from the current crop of miscreants by being able to read.
Global warming to late Cretaceous levels would do wonders for this country. Higher sea levels would submerge quite a number of small blue states and force the removal of their representation. The elimination of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, and Deleware would improve Republican prospects in the Senate and the Electoral College.
Thanks for the history lesson.
Disgusting - we are living to support lawyers, judges, and cops.
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
and would lead to a better quality of life for the rest of America.
Here in Virginia, anything capable of discharging a projectile is considered a firearm, no matter what the actual method of propulsion is. And considering that, properly pumped up, my old Crossman air pistol can fire a .177 caliber pellet or dart at up to 1000 fps, that’s probably fair.
I’m a little unclear on what the specific offense in this case is. The air pistol was “unsecured” lying in the backseat or window of the car. What action is necessary to acceptably secure it? There was no firearms registration card with it. Is one required for a pellet gun?
Good Lord. I remember removing the barrel from my Red Ryder when the cops came around (to prove i wasn’t shooting anything). Darn thing looked like a 16 ga now. I walked right up to their car and said hello. :^) He didn’t say anything but took a good look at the handle. (I was 9, LOL)
And water skiing in Colorado and Nebraska.
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