When you think about firearms, you likely imagine a handgun, rifle, or some other type of assault weapon. Airsoft guns, BB guns, and paintball guns, on the other hand, are typically thought of as toys—ones that older children and teenagers might play with. However, under New Jersey law, these types of “toys” are classified as firearms and—just like the illegal possession of a pistol would get you into legal trouble—unlawful possession of an airsoft, BB, or paintball gun carries legal consequences. So, if you buy or take possession of a paintball gun to play paintball with other friends and you do not have a valid firearm ID card or permit, you are breaking the law and could be charged with a weapons offense in New Jersey.
Airsoft Guns, BB Guns, and Paintball Guns: Firearms and Weapons
N.J.S.A. 2C:39-1 classifies airsoft guns and BB guns as “firearms”. A paintball gun, while not considered to be a firearm, is still classified as a weapon under New Jersey law because it is capable of inflicting serious bodily injury. As a result, individuals and even juveniles who think they are simply playing with a recreational item may find themselves in trouble with the law for offenses like unlawful possession of a weapon or possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
An air gun pistol, due to its spring action that shoots projectiles, which can cause injury, is considered a firearm and you must obtain a firearm permit in order to possess, carry, or transport one. Unlawful possession of an airsoft gun is a third degree offense. Paintball guns, on the other hand, are classified as weapons, but not firearms, so you do not need a firearms ID to possess, carry, or transport one, but you may be charged with a weapons offense if you use a paintball gun for an unlawful purpose like assaulting someone or harming their property in some way.
Unlawful Possession of a Weapon in New Jersey: N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5
The penalties for offenses related to airsoft, BB, and paintball guns are very serious and can even include significant jail time. Unlawful possession of a firearm without a permit is a second degree offense in New Jersey. It is also subject the Graves Act’s mandatory sentencing requirements. This means that if you are convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm, you will be required to serve a minimum of 5 years in prison and you will not be eligible for parole for 3 years, but you could be looking at a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and up to $150,000 in fines. You need to be aware of this because arguing that you did not know you needed a permit or a firearms ID card is not a valid defense. The law simply requires that you knowingly possessed the weapon.
Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose in New Jersey: N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4
Under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4, if you use an airsoft gun or BB gun unlawfully against another person or property, you may be charged with possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, which is a second degree crime, carrying penalties of imprisonment for 5 to 10 years with a presumption of incarceration for even first time offenders. Using a paintball gun in the same way would be charged as a third degree offense, which carries a potential sentence of 3 to 5 years in prison with a presumption of non-incarceration for first time offenders.
Contact a BB Gun and Paintball Gun Lawyer for a Consultation
If you or a loved one have been charged with a firearms offense in New Jersey related to an airsoft gun, BB gun, or paintball gun, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately. Even if you thought the gun was a toy, there is nothing fun about a firearms charge. The lawyers at our firm will review your case to determine what defenses may be available to you and fight to protect your rights. Call us today.