Grave consequences in the Garden State

The tree is down. The wrapping paper has been thrown away. Yet, the squeals of delight from children discovering and opening their presents on Christmas morning still echoes in homes throughout the country.

Featured in the 1983 holiday favorite, A Christmas Story, the Red Ryder BB gun became an obsession for a young boy. Fueled by daydreams and dogged determination, his quest for the much-wanted weapon was realized.

Fast forward to 2017. Had Ralphie been a resident of New Jersey, his coveted possession would have been subject to the same registration requirements and criminal penalties as any firearms.

When Playtime Is Considered A Crime

Idyriss Thomas’ airsoft gun could be considered a defacto, modern-day version of the famed Red Ryder. Target practice on a rubber duck in his backyard in Glassboro led to multiple 911 calls. Police officers responding discovered the “gun” was unlicensed and arrested and jailed the New Jersey resident for unlawful possession of a weapon.

Under the Graves Act, Thomas’s “gun” is considered a weapon that must be licensed. It outlaws sawed-off shotguns, firearms with serial numbers filed off, and any type of gun used in the commission of a crime.

However, the Graves Act’s definition of “gun” would have led to Ralphie facing charges for shooting imaginary masked villains or almost putting his eye out. Punishment would have gone beyond having his mouth washed out with soap.

Courts may take these matters on a case-by-case basis to identify the specific issues behind the alleged crime. Judges in some counties could issue waivers to the Graves Act or allow for reduced sentences. However, serious felony charges and incarceration are still possible. For minors, the consequences could be life changing.

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