Little Timmy Moore, you are hereby convicted to 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine for the possession of a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun. That is what some people could hear from a New Jersey judge if a new piece of legislation passes at 2:00 p.m. June 7, 2012. With the passing of A1216, possession of all BB guns and air guns on school property would carry 7-10 year prison sentences with no possibility of leniency. Parents picking up their children at school after hunting or going to the range would also be at risk. The legislation aims to increase the penalty for possession of a firearm on school grounds, or any educational institution from a third to second degree crime. Typically, second-degree crimes carry a prison sentence of 7-10 years and up to a $150,000 fine, with very limited sentencing discretion from the judge. In New Jersey, law enforcement considers BB guns and air rifles legally firearms. Many consider them toys in other parts of the country.
If your child accidentally forgets to take his BB gun out of his backpack on his way to school, his or her future could be in serious jeopardy. If a police officer pulls you over on school property, and you have an unloaded BB gun properly stored in your vehicle, you could face a decade in prison.
This insane piece of legislation would also ensure that New Jersey schools would become unarmed, target rich environments. If A1216 passes, faculty and staff who legally arm themselves on their way to work could face incarceration. This would further hinder their right to self-protection and hinder their ability to protect others. To some, this appears to be another small step toward a pacified and disarmed society. With legislation such as this, it may eventually become so difficult to legally purchase and carry a firearm, that only the criminals will be the armed citizens.
The Committee passed this unnecessary legislation by a 7 to 4 party-line vote. It is now a second-degree crime to carry a weapon on school property in New Jersey, even if you are a lawfully licensed concealed handgun permit carrier. Second-degree crimes carry a prison sentence of five to ten years and/or a fine up to $150,000, with no opportunity for New Jersey’s pre-trial intervention leniency program, and very limited sentencing discretion by the judge.
Assemblyman Linda Stender (D-22) attempted to address some gun owner concerns by offering last minute amendments to exempt possession of BB guns and air guns from the Draconian penalties in A1216. However, lawmakers offered no protections to holders of firearms identification cards or hunting licenses who remain at risk of lengthy prison sentences for innocent mistakes under this ill-conceived legislation.
Firearms possession for an unlawful purpose is already a second-degree crime in New Jersey, so this legislation adds nothing except excessive punishment for innocent mistakes.